El Salvador U-23 players felt disrespected when they viewed their names penciled in above the printed names of U.S. team players on what they believed were boarding passes prior to their charter flight from Nashville to Kansas City for the knockout phase of Olympic qualifying.
But the entire situation is one big mix up, according to U.S. Soccer, the local organizing committee for the CONCACAF men’s Olympic qualifying tournament.
A U.S. team spokesman told Goal.com that the names printed on the pieces of paper (pictured above) were "merely placeholders" for seats on El Salvador's charter handed out by the airline. The official said that the placeholders were created well before the tournament began using names of players from two randomly selected teams from each of the two groups.
"A month before the tournament, airline tickets had to be purchased in order to confirm seats for the four unknown semifinalists that would be traveling to Kansas City," U.S. Soccer's manager of communications Neil Buethe wrote in an email to Goal.com.
"To purchase the tickets, a full name and date of birth of each individual is required by the airline. The names provided to the airline were merely placeholders."
The U.S. U-23 team was the favorite to win Group A of the qualifying tournament, but a loss to Canada and a draw with El Salvador on Monday ended the nation's Olympic dreams. Canada and El Salvador advanced to the semifinals from the group.
When El Salvador arrived at the airport, several players felt as though the planning committee had expected the U.S. team to advance in the tournament."The tickets had the names of the American players on them. They literally had to cross out the names with a pencil and write our names on top," said El Salvador midfielder Andrés Flores.
He added: "They thought the USA would go through [to the next round]. This is very disrespectful towards us."
Tomás Romero contributed to this report. Photo taken by Romero.