Today, LA Galaxy's Michael Stephens and the United States U-23 team begin play in the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament in Nashville, TN. The US are favored to emerge top of the group which includes Cuba and Canada. The Semi-Finals, which feature the Group A winner facing the Group B runner up and vice versa will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network, while the rest of the matches will be on Universal Sports Network.
"As we begin the countdown to London for the 2012 Olympic Games, the CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying tournament is yet another example of our high-caliber, world class programming that adds to the value of Universal Sports Network," said David Sternberg, CEO of Universal Sports."
The winners of the Semi-Finals move on the Olympics in London, with the final simply for bragging rights. Check out some perspectives on the upcoming tournament:
Freddy Adu, Juan Agudelo, U.S. Olympic soccer team in qualifying - Soccer - Avi Creditor - SI.com
Months of buildup, hype and speculation surrounding perhaps the strongest and most professionally advanced group of U.S. youth talent come to a head Thursday night.
Olympic Qualifying Reflects on Major League Soccer - Los Angeles Times
The point about Olympic Qualifying reflecting on MLS is a fair one, just check out the roster for the tournament.
GOALKEEPERS: Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire).
DEFENDERS: Perry Kitchen (D.C. United), Ike Opara (San Jose Earthquakes), Kofi Sarkodie (Houston Dynamo), Zarek Valentin (Montreal Impact), Jorge Villafaña (Chivas USA), Sheanon Williams (Philadelphia Union).
MIDFIELDERS: Freddy Adu (Philadelphia Union), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Mix Diskerud (Gent), Jared Jeffrey (Mainz), Amobi Okugo (Philadelphia Union), Michael Stephens (Los Angeles Galaxy).
FORWARDS: Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Terrence Boyd (Borussia Dortmund), Teal Bunbury (Sporting Kansas City), Joe Gyau (Hoffenheim), Brek Shea (FC Dallas), Tony Taylor (Estoril).
The solid majority of players on this team ply their trade in MLS, essentially representing not only the future of the US Men's National Team but the future of MLS. Teal Bunbury, Brek Shea, Juan Agudelo have already become impact players with their respective clubs, and Michael Stephens will be called on to step up once the David Beckham era is over.
So check out the matches tonight at 6pm PST, when the US will take on Cuba. Saturday the US have Canada, and then Tuesday they'll face El Salvador. When you're watching, pay attention to the commercials for Century 21, which just announced themselves an official partner of US Soccer.