The U.S. Women's National Soccer Team suffered a stunning quarterfinal loss Friday to Sweden. But let's remember that the men's team failed to even qualify for Rio.
"That is the sad part for me that we're not in the Olympics this year on the men’s side because we have all these kids that don't have the opportunity to experience that," says Landon Donovan, the nation's all-time leader in international goals. "So, it is sad on one level, a little disturbing on another level, that we're not qualifying for a tournament like this. We have got to remedy that quickly."
For the third time in the past four tries, the U.S. failed to qualify for the Olympics' 16-nation field, which for the men consists of national teams with players under 23.
After coming in third in CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying (with Mexico and Honduras earning bids for the second straight Olympics), the U.S. had a two-leg playoff versus CONMEBOL Qualifying runner-up Colombia. The Colombians won, 3-2.
"I wish I could just say, 'Well, once or twice or three times, we had a bad game in the game that mattered in qualifying,'" says Donovan, who played for the U.S. at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. "But the reality is, if that happens three times out of the last four, that is a trend. So, we need to look at it seriously. My personal opinion is that we are not developing players that are capable enough consistently to do well at this level. That is a big long discussion for another day. But we need to do a better job at a young age of developing these kids."
In 2000, the United States qualified for its fifth straight Olympics, and third since the Games adapted a U-23 format. No U.S. team had ever finished better than eighth in 11 tries. But Donovan, already signed to German power Bayer Leverkusen, was among the American youth who surprised the world.
The U.S. won its group and finished fourth. Donovan, who netted a group play goal against Kuwait, and his bleached hair took a step into the spotlight.
"I am a huge sports fan," he says. "I always have been. The Olympics -- forget about the soccer. The experience of being in Sydney and around all that, being in the village and seeing all that. It was one of the best experiences of my life."
Donovan went on to play three World Cups and became the all-time USMNT leading goal-scorer (57). He is second all-time in USMNT caps (157) and he is the MLS all-time leader in goals (144) and assists (136).
Inside the U.S. Soccer Federation, the Donovan effect goes deeper than stats. Donovan was among a group of 20 teenagers sent to Bradenton's IMG Sports Academy in early 1999 to train for the U-17 World Championship that fall. The U.S. finished fourth in the event in Brazil, and Donovan won the FIFA Golden Ball for best player. A year later, Donovan claimed his fourth place at the Olympics. In 2002, the U.S. reached the World Cup quarterfinals and Donovan won the Best Young Player honor.
The necessary question to ask is, "What happened to the USMNT youth development movement?"
USMNT manager Jürgen Klinsmann has been the subject of criticism from Donovan since he left Donovan off the 2014 World Cup roster. Klinsmann has been at the helm since 2011, and his ups have included a 2013 Gold Cup title and World Cup knockout-round appearance, while his lows have included a 2015 Gold Cup semifinal loss on U.S. soil to Jamaica.
Klinsmann, who has also managed the Germany National Team and Bayern Munich, must consider the future of the U.S. team. But is prioritizing youth development a priority for Klinsmann?
"I think originally when he came in, it was," Donovan says. "But he has probably realized it is a really big ask that won't take three or five years, but 20 years of work. I know he is passionate about it. He cares about it. But, at the end of the day his job as the national team coach is to win games. He understands that. It is going to take time, and we must continue on the path that we are on."
The USMNT has at least gained a sense of consistency it lacked in Donovan's early years. The U.S. had never reached back-to-back knockout rounds at the World Cup until doing so in 2010 and 2014. At home, MLS has 20 teams and plans to have 24 by 2020.
But the youth success is not there, and the Rio absence is glaring.
"Every tournament you play like [the Olympics] is important because it gives you experience you cannot get anywhere else," Donovan says. "Is it vital that we win the Olympics to then go win a World Cup? No. But we want players that are capable. It should be a foregone conclusion that we are qualifying for the U-17, U-18 and the full team for the Olympics. The fact that we are not qualifying on a regular basis is alarming.
"I think [U.S. Soccer Federation President] Sunil Gulati has done a tremendous job. I would put a lot of emphasis on youth development. The only way we ever win a World Cup one day is if we are developing our kids at a young age like all the other heavy-hitting countries in the world do."
Since retirement, Donovan has dabbled in broadcast. He served as a color commentator for Fox Sports during June's Copa América Centenario in the United States.
But Donovan is not going to develop youth talent from the broadcast booth. Sometimes, the best leaders in sports need to take things into their own hands. One day, that could involve Donovan as manager for the USMNT.
"Have I ever imagined myself [as USMNT manager]? No. But could it happen one day? Maybe. There are a lot of steps that have to happen first, and I would need lots of work and practice, and have the passion for it. But you never know. I never say never."
Donovan's managerial development would be a process. U.S. fans should be happy to know it is starting.
"I'm taking a course next week, my first coaching course," Donovan says. "I do like the ability to have an influence on people, not just soccer wise, as people. I think there is potential there for something to happen. Whether it happens or not, whether I am passionate or any good at it, I won't know until I try."
Although it lost in the quarterfinals in Rio, the U.S. Women's National Team seems to have figured out a formula. The reigning World Cup champions also won three straight Olympic gold medals in 2004, 2008 and 2012.
For the time being, Donovan bleeds red, white and blue for Klinsmann and the men's national team. Just in case, Donovan is getting himself ready if his talents are needed.
Donovan spoke to ThePostGame on behalf of Captain Morgan, as part of the #Under35POTUS campaign, urging the United States to allow those under 35 to run for president. Currently, Article II, Section 1 of the United States Constitution prohibits those under 35 from being president of the United States. Donovan and says after having his first child in January, he has taken an interest in this presidential campaign cycle.
"Every day I'm seeing another tweet about another young child killed, another mass murderer, another this or that, or racially-charged crime," Donovan says. "The point in this is find a clever way to get people to actually care about our country again and care about what's going on. We have a lot young people that need to care that don't care. They're the future, right? We're trying to get people engaged."
At 34, Donovan is on his way out of this age range, but he still cares a lot about the youth and their development.
Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.