United States men's U-23 national team manager Jason Kreis has called 31 players into a training camp ahead of the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying championship.
The camp will take place in Guadalajara, Mexico, with the final 20-player roster set to be named on March 15. It was one year ago that Kreis and his squad traveled to Guadalajara, only for the tournament to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Notably missing from the list is LA Galaxy youngster Efrain Alvarez. The 18-year-old appeared on both the preliminary rosters of the U.S. and Mexico. Born in Los Angeles to Mexican parents, Alvarez is eligible to represent both countries under FIFA's statutes for dual-nationals. In the past, he has played for the United States at the under-15 level before switching to participate with Mexico's under-15 and under-17 squads. He would have to file a one-time switch with FIFA in order to play for the U.S. since he appeared for El Tri in official competition at U-17 level.
In addition, three Atlanta players on the roster are not being released by the team for the camp: defenders George Bello and Miles Robinson, and forward Brooks Lennon, leaving their availability for the tournament unlikely.
U.S. coach Jason Kreis said Monday that Alvarez was not ready to make a national team choice. Kreis called it ''a very, very difficult and personal decision."
"He's decided that he wasn't ready to commit to one team or another, which puts us in a very hopeful position," Kreis said. "We would like him to be part of the U.S. men's national teams programs."
Kreis thought before last weekend the Atlanta players would be available for training. Kreis said the MLS team wanted to keep them ahead of its CONCACAF Champions League opener against Costa Rica's Alajuelense on April 6. Robinson likely would have been a starting central defender.
"Unfortunate situation for us. Unfortunate situation for the players, but ultimately as a former MLS coach I think that we respect their decision," Kreis said.
Three players who play outside of Major League Soccer -- Sebastian Soto, Ulysses Llanez, and Johnny Cardoso -- made the list. Clubs aren't obliged to release their players for the Olympic qualifying tournament. The training camp roster features 15 players who have been capped by the senior USMNT and 16 who have played at a youth World Cup.
Just 12 of the players were on the 20-man U.S. roster for qualifying when it was first scheduled for last March, a tournament postponed because of the pandemic. The eight on the roster then who are not now included defenders Reggie Cannon (Portugal's Boavista), Chris Gloster (the Netherlands' PSV Eindhoven), Mark McKenzie (Belgium's Genk) and Erik Palmer-Brown (Austria Vienna), and midfielder Brenden Aaronson (FC Salzburg), who are with European clubs. PSV Eindhoven midfielder Richie Ledezma tore an ACL in December and Dallas midfielder Paxton Pomykal is recovering from hip surgery in September to repair his labrum.
"We've gained players that have a tremendous amount of experience in MLS this past year," Kreis said. "We've got I think arguably probably a more experienced group as far as how many of these players have played lots of matches in the last year to two years. But ultimately it looks a little different from a top-end perspective, perhaps. So, a deeper group."
Portland forward Jeremy Ebobisse was not picked after Kreis concluded during a January training camp that he was more of a central player, where he was behind on the depth chart, and not a winger. The U.S. failed to qualify for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. The senior U.S. team failed to reach the 2018 World Cup.
"What it is for me is just to right some wrongs," Kreis said. "We have sort of the first opportunity to make a major step forward in qualifying for a major tournament."
The U.S. open the tournament against Costa Rica on March 18, followed by a match against the Dominican Republic three days later. The group stage finale will see the U.S. go up against Mexico on March 24. The top two finishers in the group will advance to the semifinals. The two semifinal winners will qualify for Tokyo.
U-23 USMNT Training Camp Roster by Position (Club; Hometown):
GOALKEEPERS (4): Matt Freese (Philadelphia Union; Wayne, Pa.), Jonathan Klinsmann (LA Galaxy; Munich, Germany), JT Marcinkowski (San Jose Earthquakes, Alamo, Calif.), David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake; Oxnard, Calif.)
DEFENDERS (10): Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy; Lompoc, Calif.), George Bello (Atlanta United FC; Douglasville, Ga.), Marco Farfan (LAFC; Gresham, Ore.), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake; Tucson, Ariz.), Aaron Herrera (Real Salt Lake; Las Cruces, N.M.), Henry Kessler (New England Revolution; New York, N.Y.), Mauricio Pineda (Chicago Fire FC; Bolingbrook, Ill.), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United FC; Arlington, Mass.), Austin Trusty (Colorado Rapids; Media, Pa.), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids; Colorado Springs, Colo.)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Frankie Amaya (FC Cincinnati; Santa Ana, Calif.), Cole Bassett (Colorado Rapids; Littleton, Colo.), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional/BRA; Denville, N.J.), Hassani Dotson (Minnesota United FC; Federal Way, Wash.), Andres Perea (Orlando City SC; Medellin, Colombia), Tanner Tessmann (FC Dallas; Hoover, Ala.), Eryk Williamson (Portland Timbers; Alexandria, Va.), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; Bloomington, Minn.)
FORWARDS (9): Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas; McKinney, Texas), Brooks Lennon (Atlanta United FC; Paradise Valley, Ariz.), Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids; Plantation, Fla.), Ulysses Llanez (Heerenveen/NED; Lynwood, Calif.), Benji Michel (Orlando City SC; Orlando, Fla.), Djordje Mihailovic (CF Montreal/CAN; Jacksonville, Fla.), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas; McKinney, Texas), Sebastian Saucedo (UNAM Pumas/MEX; Park City, Utah), Sebastian Soto (Norwich City/ENG; San Diego, Calif.)
The Associated Press contributed to this report.