Chicago Fire goalkeeper Chris Brady will headline the U.S. U-20 roster as they seek to return to the Olympics for the first time since 2008. The 18-year-old was named in the 20-man squad for the qualifying tournament in Honduras this month and will likely be the starter. Had the club made all of their players available for this tournament, he would not be the only Fire player on the plane; Brian Gutiérrez had been slated to be a part of the group, but the staff in Chicago opted not to release him.
With Gaga Slonina also not released by the Fire, this competition will be a huge opportunity for Brady to showcase himself to the rest of the region. Brady is perceived as the next best American goalkeeping talent in his age group after Slonina, but with all the national and global attention on the Fire’s #1, he has had to wait his turn to step into the spotlight. Chris Brady’s excellent shot-stopping ability is unparalleled by any goalkeeper in his age group, and he will be tested a fair amount in some big games on the international stage this summer. The other goalkeeper in the squad is Dallas’ Antonio Carrera, but assuming Brady is 100% fit, he will likely start most of the games.
It comes as no shock that Slonina, the club’s starting goalkeeper, was not released by the Fire, but it comes as a little bit of a surprise that Brian Gutiérrez was not made available. Gutiérrez has been a part of every U-20 camp throughout this cycle and recently spoke about how he was looking forward to helping the United States get back to the Olympics. However, according to reports, the Fire blocked his call-up. Although he isn’t a starter for the Fire, participation in this tournament would make him miss up to four MLS games, which was deemed too many. The decision was made last week.
Gutiérrez and Slonina are not the only first-choice U-20 players who won’t be at the tournament. Kevin Paredes and Justin Che opted to remain with their clubs in Germany for preseason, while Jonathan Gómez and Dante Sealy will return to Real Sociedad and PSV respectively over the summer. Within MLS, Moses Nyeman and Caleb Wiley miss out through injury. The Seattle Sounders’ Obed Vargas was initially not going to be released, but following negotiations, the clubs reached a compromise that would see him join up with the team for the knockout rounds.
Some key names who will make up the squad for the full tournament are Caden Clark, Paxten Aaronson, Cade Cowell, and Quinn Sullivan. With question marks surrounding the team’s back four, Chris Brady could find himself very busy between the sticks in the knockout rounds. Noah Allen, Brandon Craig, Jalen Neal, and Mauricio Cuevas are the projected starters.
The U.S. will face St. Kitts and Nevis, Canada, and Cuba in the group stage (June 18-22), and the top three teams will advance to the round of 16 (June 26). The winners of the quarterfinal matches (June 28) will secure a place in the 2023 U-20 World Cup, while the winners of the all-important semifinals (July 1) will book a place in the 2024 Olympics in Paris. The final will be on July 3rd. The U.S. are projected to play Nicaragua, Canada, Honduras, and Mexico in the four knockout games, should everything go as expected.
All of the matches will be televised in Spanish on TUDN; they should be available in English too, as Fox Sports holds the TV rights, but the details have not yet been officially confirmed.