The Orange County Blues have an international of sorts in their midst, as defender Jefrey Payeras has been called up to Guatemala's U-23 team for the upcoming Central American Olympic pre-qualifying tournament, to take place this month ahead of the actual CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament around the U.S. in October.
Payeras, a dual citizen of the United States and Guatemala, is entering the Guatemalan program for the first time, as he previously played with the U.S. U-20 national team. The 21-year-old California native joined the Blues midseason on loan from Guatemalan side Municipal, and has played in nine league games for the USL side this season, including last week's 2-1 win over Real Monarchs SLC.
With Guatemala, Payeras will look to beat Honduras and Belize in Guatemala City on Aug. 11 and 13. If they win their group, they'll move into the proper qualifying tournament, but even if they finish second, they'll still have a shot, provided they can win a one-game playoff against the other second-place team, which could be Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, or El Salvador. Given that competition, it seems pretty likely that Guatemala will seek to win the group outright to try and avoid a playoff game.
Guatemala have participated in the actual Olympic soccer tournament three times, the last coming in 1988 where they did not progress from the group stage. Their best finish at the Olympics was in 1968 where they reached the quarterfinals. The next Olympic tournament will of course take place next year in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Congratulations and best of luck to Jefrey in his new adventure with Guatemala!
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