The opportunities to impress are running few and far between, which makes this weekend as pivotal as ever for John Tolkin.
The New York Red Bulls’ 21-year-old defender was called into the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) January down in Florida ahead of a friendly against Slovenia on Saturday.
This time of year is always a prime time for younger American talents to prove their mettle to the US Soccer Federation’s leadership considering most of its star players are still in action for their domestic clubs overseas. In 2024, however, the stakes are raised even more.
The United States is competing in the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris — the first time since 2008 when they finished fourth in Beijing that they’ve qualified for the competition.
Of the 25 players at the Americans’ January camp, 13 are eligible for the Olympic roster, which consists of talents 23 years old and younger. Tolkin, obviously, is one of those 13 and U-23/Olympic head coach Marko Mitrovic is on the technical staff for this camp.
It’s been another impressive year for the Red Bulls’ young star. Not only was he named a Major League Soccer (MLS) All-Star for the first time in his career, but he was called up to the USMNT for the first time, accruing three caps (appearances) — two of which came during the Gold Cup. This is also Tolkin’s third Olympic camp with the national team dating back to October.
The Chatham, N.J. native has an opportunity to go where very few Red Bulls players have gone before him. Only five players in the history of the MetroStars/Red Bulls franchise have played for the United States Olympic team and if Tolkin were to make the cut, he’d be the first since 2000 to do so.
Kick-off for USMNT and Slovenia on Saturday is at 3 p.m. ET and can be viewed on TNT.