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International Roundup: U-23s ready for Olympic Qualifying, Jamaica and Guatemala advance in World Cup qualifying

The U.S. U-23 National Team finished its final tune-up before CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying begins next month with a 2-0 win over Qatar on Tuesday in Bury, England.  Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gil captained the Olympic squad to victory in the second of two matches in England in the last week for the U.S. U-23 squad.

Gil was joined by RSL defender Boyd Okwuonu with the U-23s as they get ready for the Olympic qualifying tournament that opens October 1 in Kansas City and concludes with the semifinal and final matches on October 10 and 13 at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Gil came off the bench in the first match of the U.S. U-23 tune-up matches last week while Okwuonu got the start and played 61 minutes in a 1-0 defeat against England’s U-21s in Preston, England.  In the second match, Gil played 90 minutes while leading the team to a 2-0 win, getting second-half goals from Benji Joya and Gboly Ariyibi to secure the win and set up the U.S. for the qualifying tournament.

The U.S. is set to face Canada, Cuba and Panama in the Group Stage of the 2015 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament.  The matches against Canada and Cuba will be in Kansas City while the Panama match will take place in Commerce City, Colorado.  The top two teams from Group A will advance to the semifinal round October 10 at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Guatemala and Jamaica Advance in World Cup Qualifying

Both Guatemala and Jamaica needed big wins in the second leg of their third round matches in CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying, but both teams got the result they needed to advance to the fourth round with 2-0 victories over Antigua & Barbuda and Nicaragua, respectively.

Guatemala fell behind 1-0 to Antigua & Barbuda in the first leg and needed a victory in the second leg to ensure advancement.  RSL defender Elias Vasquez got the start for Guatemala and helped it earn the shutout.  Meanwhile, two second-half goals from Carlos Ruiz and Denniss Lopez gave Guatemala the 2-0 win in the match and 2-1 win in the series to advance to the fourth round.

Then in Nicaragua, RSL defender Demar Phillips started and played 56 minutes for Jamaica as the Reggae Boyz won 2-0 to advance, coming back from a 3-2 series deficit to advance 4-3 on aggregate.  Darren Mattocks scored in the first half, then Simon Dawkins scored in the 90th minute to give Jamaica the series win.

Guatemala now joins the U.S. National Team, Trinidad & Tobago and Saint Vincent & Grenadines in Group C while Jamaica is in Group B with Costa Rica, Panama and Haiti.  The final group (Group A) consists of Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Canada.  The fourth round starts in November and runs through September of 2016 with the top two teams from each group advancing to the Hexagonal Round.

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