Germany, Argentina, Italy.
Soccer teams from each of those nations have won the World Cup multiple times. None of them will be represented in the men’s soccer competition in London this summer.
France has a World Cup to their credit, and the Netherlands have finished second three times. They won’t be in London, either.
This is not to suggest that it doesn’t matter that Freddy Adu and his U.S. teammates won’t be competing in the Olympics. It does. But whereas the Games constitute the top of the line in lots of sports – track and field, for example, gymnastics and swimming – the same cannot be said for soccer, any more than it could be said for baseball before it dropped off the Olympics dance card.
The composition of soccer teams competing at the Olympics is dictated by FIFA, international soccer’s governing body. FIFA figured out that one way to insure that the Games wouldn’t compete for preeminence with their own World Cup would be to restrict teams headed for the Olympics to players 23 or younger, with three exceptions, meaning that David Beckham and two other old lads could play for the host this time around.
Gabon, New Zealand, Egypt, and Belarus apparently have numbers of fine young players. Those four nations will compete in London. Brazil and Spain will be there as well, but most of the most prominent Brazilians and Spaniards making millions of dollars annually in the service of the teams competing in the top divisions around the world will not be suiting up. They’re too old.
Sour grapes? Maybe a little, but, again, I’m not suggesting that the result against El Salvador on Monday didn’t matter. All you have to do is look at the post-game photograph of Freddy Adu on one knee, head bowed, to understand his disappointment and the disappointment of his teammates, their fans, and the U.S. Soccer Federation. It would be better for the team and soccer in this country if the U.S. could look forward to the Games, and better still if they knocked off Great Britain or at least Morocco.
But was the failure to earn a spot in the 2012 Olympics a blow to Major League Soccer? I don’t think so. Fans of teams in England’s Premiership or Spain’s La Liga legitimately regard MLS as a distant cousin to the world’s best circuits, but our domestic league has developed players who’ve thrived in the world’s top venues and MLS has grown into what must be considered at least a healthy adolescence, even though this time around the team will have to be content with learning by watching from the sidelines.