Olympics a priority for Jurgen Klinsmann 

February, 13, 2012

This year, few results will be more important to U.S. Soccer than a successful showing at the Olympics. Often perceived as a second-tier tournament, this year's Olympic cycle means much more to the American cause. After a difficult stretch in 2011 led to a coaching change, the 2012 Olympic team -- which could feature a large number of budding stars from the full-team pool -- is in many ways a barometer by which we can measure the progress of the Jurgen Klinsmann regime, and to some extent the future of American soccer.

But with only months until the potential date in England, many questions remain. The team has plenty of potential on paper, but many of its would-be stars simply will not be available for the qualifying tournament in late March, when the U.S. will face a do-or-die semifinal match against a solid team, likely Honduras or Panama, but perhaps even archrival Mexico. That and a late start to preparations -- the first U.S. Olympic camp took place in November -- has some fans worrying that an Olympic triumph isn't a priority for the American federation.

But Klinsmann said that's not the case.

"We want to have a successful Olympic campaign," the coach said during last month's camp. "The guys are going to London hopefully, and we want them do well there. They will have a good team, Caleb [Porter] will have a good team, and I will give him as many of my guys as I can."

That final sentiment will be key. In past years, players who feature for the full team haven't always been called into duty at the age group levels. But Klinsmann sounds prepared to let young stars such as Brek Shea, Juan Agudelo and Jozy Altidore spend much of the summer with the U-23s, even if that means reducing their service to the full team as World Cup qualifiers kick off later this year.

Brent Latham is a soccer commentator who covers the youth national teams for ESPN.com. Based in Guatemala, he has attended youth World Cups from Peru to Egypt, and places in between.