Going to the Olympics for United States a ‘Dream Come True’ for Miles Robinson

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FC Cincinnati's Miles Robinson will march in the Parade of Nations for the United States this Summer at the Games of the XXXIII Olympiad in Paris, France. Well, it's still being determined if he will actually be with the American contingent on the River Seine, as the soccer team will be located in Marseille for its matches, but he will be an Olympian.

In a historic moment for Robinson, he was named to the US Olympic Squad as one of three overager players for the U23 tournament in Paris this summer, revealed Monday during The Today Show on NBC. Robinson will be traveling to Marseille after FCC's match with Chicago Fire FC on July 17 to join the squad. The Olympic games on the men's side of the soccer tournament is considered a youth tournament -- so as to not conflict with the best-on-best status of the FIFA World Cup -- so teams are restricted to rosters of under 23-year-olds with three "overagers" to augment the roster. Robinson will join Nashville SC's Walker Zimmerman and Colorado Rapids' Djorde Mihailovic as the three over-age players this summer in Paris.

"Growing up, I always watched the Olympics, whether it was track or swimming or anything. So I was a fan of the Olympics, but to be a part of a team… I'm just excited to be a part of this group," Robinson said Tuesday from Mercy Health Training Center. "I'm so excited. It's definitely a dream come true. I'm excited to get going."

The United States had not qualified for the Olympic games on the Men's side since 2008, when the squad went to Beijing and finished ninth. Robinson, 27, was not allowed to join the qualifying effort four years ago to go to the Tokyo Games, but that squad did not qualify regardless. With only 11 qualifying spots total and just two for Concacaf, earning passage to the games is one of the more difficult tournaments to enter in the world.

Similarly difficult is that because the Olympics takes place outside of a formal international window, clubs are not required to release their players to international squads for competition. But despite losing Robinson for the Copa America already this year for service with the Senior Men's National Team, FC Cincinnati Head Coach Pat Noonan made clear in the leadup to this tournament that FCC would not stand in the way of a player with a rare opportunity to represent their country.

"I think this is just a once-in-a-lifetime type experience and I think FC Cincinnati understood that and I'm definitely grateful that they're allowing me to go," Robinson said of leaving the club for a short period. "The fact that I'm only missing just one league game is definitely a perk…so being able to now be a part of (the Olympics) is definitely awesome."

Growing up, Robinson said he would gather with friends and family to watch the Olympics and cheer on Team USA in all the events. He distinctly remembers the 2008 Beijing Olympics and gathering with his cousins to watch swimmer Michael Phillips break the Olympic record of eight gold medals in a single game.

"I remember being in my cousin's house when Michael Phelps went crazy," Robinson remembers when thinking about what being an Olympian means to him. I remember all my cousins, my sister, and my family all going crazy as he just narrowly won one of his eighth gold medals. That type of magic, that type of excitement, is something that has stuck with me forever."

It is, at this point, still being determined which Olympic events Robinson will be able to attend with the team. Group A, which comprises the United States, New Zealand, Guinea and the host nation France, will play all of its matches in Nice, Marseille and Saint Etienne in the southern region of the country, meaning they will be nearly eight hours away from the Olympic base in Paris. Soccer, along with some Basketball, Handball, Rowing and Sailing events are the only events to take place outside the Paris zone. Though not nearly as far away as Surfing, which will take place in the French colony of Tahiti.

But in his event, Robinson is clear-eyed in his desire to not only compete in the Olympic games but to medal for his country and contribute to the larger Team USA goal in the medal count.

"It would mean everything," Robinson said of winning a medal. "Growing up, I would look at the newspaper and see the most recent medal count. I definitely took pride in being American and having the most medals at the Olympics and seeing things like that. It kind of enlightens me and lets that fire burn. So hopefully I can use that type of… like a kid in me, that kind of hunger and that pride I have in being American to push forward and motivate the guys and hopefully do something special."

The role Robinson will be asked to play with the Olympic squad is different from the one he played earlier this summer with the Copa America squad. As one of three overagers with the team of otherwise young, mostly inexperienced players at the international level, Robinson will be imbued with more responsibility and leadership opportunities than he was with the more veteran senior squad he was just with.

Robinson took on a leadership role earlier in the year when he captained the national team in a friendly this January. While no announcement has been made about who will don the airband for The Stars and Stripes, Robinson knows all three overagers will be called on to lead the group.

"Definitely, he's expecting a leadership role," Robinson said of what Head Coach Marko Mitrović says he expects of them. And I'm definitely going to provide that… I'm familiar with a lot of the guys on the team and I'm familiar with Walker (Zimmerman) and Djordje (Mihailovic), the other overage players. So I definitely know the team and how a lot of the players like to play and things like that… I'm just going to try to provide (Coach) with some confidence in that back line."

The US Men's Olympic Team kicks off play on July 24 with its opening match against the host French side managed by international legend, former MLS star and CF Montréal manager Thierry Henry. They will then take on New Zealand on July 27 and close the group stage with a game against Guinea on July 30. Should they finish top two of their group, they would advance to the quarter-finals to earn a chance at the medal rounds.

Should the US OlyMNT (a social media shorthand used for this squad) advance to the goal medal match in Paris on August 9, Robinson would be guaranteed to miss one MLS league game (at New York Red Bulls on July 20), both Leagues Cup group stages matches and the Round of 32 match should FCC advance.

"I think all that's still kind of up in the air," Robinson said of the practical details of when he will depart or what he will do there. "So until then, I'm 100% focused on what we're doing here in Cincy, and we have a big game this weekend. So I'm so excited for that. First and foremost."