With sporting events around the world being postponed, cancelled outright or otherwise impacted because of the global coronavirus outbreak, it’s fair to wonder if CONCACAF’s men’s Olympic qualifying tournament, scheduled to run March 20 to April 1 in Guadalajara, Mexico, will go ahead as planned.
On a conference call with reporters on Monday, United States under-23 national team head coach Jason Kreis — who is aiming to lead the Americans to an Olympics for the first time in 12 years — said that he’s optimistic that the competition won’t be affected by the respiratory illness, which is more specifically known as COVID-19.
“Of course I want to have this tournament. I want to go to the Olympics in the summer,” Kreis said. “So I’m hopeful that all of this takes care of itself and that we don’t have to have cancellations, because we see this as a tremendous opportunity and something that we’re extremely excited for so we’re hopeful that everything continues as planned.”
The 20-man U.S. squad that was announced late Sunday night began training on Monday in Guadalajara. A presentation by U.S. Soccer’s medical staff to the entire delegation was on the docket for later in the day, Kreis said.
As of now, there are no plans to postpone or move the tournament, a source with knowledge of CONCACAF’s thinking told Yahoo Sports. However, given the escalating crisis, that could easily change over the next 10 days. There were four confirmed cases of COVID-19 the province of Guadalajara as of this writing.
“As always, the health and safety of our players, coaches, staff and fans is paramount,” a U.S. Soccer spokesman said via email. “Our chief medical officer, George Chiampas, and our under-23 men’s national team medical staff are closely monitoring the public health developments regarding COVID-19, and are working closely in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control, CONCACAF, and the local health authorities.
“The medical team is providing information to all the players and staff on best practices for staying healthy, and will be prepared for any precautions that may be necessary as the situation continues to develop,” the statement continued. “At this time, the team is settled in Guadalajara and we are focused on preparing for our upcoming opening match.”
The Americans are scheduled to face Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Mexico in the first round. The two group winners would advance to the semifinals, with the eventual finalists punching their tickets to Tokyo.
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