A group-stage breakdown three years ago prevented the United States from qualifying for the 2012 Summer Olympics men’s soccer tournament in the United Kingdom.
The Americans’ next opportunity starts with a trip to Sporting Park on Thursday.
The U.S. Under-23 National Team will face Canada at 8 p.m. Thursday in its opening match in the CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship. A match pitting Cuba and Panama will serve as the first game of a double-header starting at 5:30 p.m. Those four teams make up Group A in the qualifying tournament.
It’s the first of a two-game swing in Kansas City for the Americans, who will also face Cuba at 4 p.m. Saturday at Sporting Park. They will conclude group play Tuesday in Colorado with a match against Panama.
The top two teams from the group will reach the semifinal round, along with the top two teams from a Group B that includes Mexico, the gold medalist in the 2012 Summer Olympics.
The semifinal winners will be awarded berths into the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The winner of the third-place match will go to a playoff game against Colombia for the final spot.
Countries qualify for the Olympics using their respective under-23 teams.
It’s a chance for redemption for the United States.
The Americans failed to qualify for that 2012 Olympics tournament after a 1-1-1 record in group play — including a 2-0 loss to Canada, their opponent Thursday.
Six players on the U.S. roster were also part of the U.S. U-20 World Cup team that reached the quarterfinals in New Zealand over the summer — Cameron Carter-Vickers, Emerson Hyndman, Matt Miazga, Zack Steffen, Maki Tall and Gedion Zelalem. Carter-Vickers, 17, is the youngest player on the roster.