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OLYMPIC REPORT / 38 DAYS TO THE GAMES : SOCCER

FIFA Questions Reyna's Eligibility

June 11, 1996|MIKE PENNER and RANDY HARVEY

An obscure FIFA rule regarding under-age international tournaments has jeopardized the eligibility of midfielder Claudio Reyna, expected to start for the United States in the Olympic men's soccer tournament.

According to the regulations of FIFA, international soccer's governing body, no player can participate in the same international under-age tournament twice. This includes the Olympics, which is primarily an event for players under 23.

Reyna played for the United States in the 1992 Olympics and, because he was still under 23 as of this Jan. 1, FIFA secretary-general Sepp Blatter told the U.S. Soccer Federation that Reyna is not eligible for the 1996 Games.

USSF officials, however, maintain that Reyna would be competing as one of the United States' three designated over-age players and would not be depriving an under-23 player of a roster spot.

Defender Alexi Lalas also played for the United States in the '92 Olympics, but because he is now 26, he is eligible for Atlanta as an over-age player, according to FIFA. Reyna will not turn 23 until July 20--the date of the U.S. team's Olympic opener against Argentina.

If Reyna is ruled ineligible, the leading candidates to replace him as an over-age player are midfielders Cobi Jones and John Harkes, and forward Eric Wynalda.

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