June 17, 2016
by Tony Jones
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — When the United States Men’s National Team returned to the pitch for a Thursday night match against Ecuador in the 2016 Copa AmÃƒÆ’Â©rica Centenario, former University of Notre Dame men’s soccer All-American Matt Besler (’09) earned his first start of the tournament in the U.S. Starting XI. Besler made the most of his latest opportunity on the international stage, playing the full 90 minutes as a defender in the 2-1 USMNT victory in front of 47,322 fans at CenturyLink Field in Seattle to vault the USA into the semifinal round of the tournament.
The U.S. national team awaits the winner of a Saturday matchup between Argentina and Venezuela to determine its Copa AmÃƒÆ’Â©rica Centenario semifinal opponent. The June 21 semifinal match will be held at NRG Stadium in Houston.
The 2016 Copa AmÃƒÆ’Â©rica Centenario is the 45th edition of the tournament dating back to its inception in 1916, and is a special centennial celebration of the event being held after Chile claimed its first Copa AmÃƒÆ’Â©rica title in 2015. The win over Ecuador enabled the USMNT to reach the semifinal stage of the AmÃƒÆ’Â©rica for the first time since 1995.
Besler made his fifth appearance of the 2016 season for the USMNT on Thursday in the contest against Ecuador, earning his fourth international start of the calendar year. The Ecuador match was Besler’s 34th career U.S. Cap, which has included stints at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil and as part of the preliminary 2015 CONCACAF Golf Cup and 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup champion USMNT squads.
A four-time MLS All-Star (2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015) with Sporting KC, Besler was previously recognized as the MLS Defender of the Year in 2013. Besler was also a member of the Sporting KC roster that claimed the 2013 MLS Cup and the 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup championships thus far in his professional career.
At Notre Dame, Besler played in 90 matches, including 73 starts, from 2005-08 and tallied five goals and seven assists. He earned first team All-America and first team Academic All-America honors as a senior. Besler was a three-time all-BIG EAST honoree and was named the 2008 National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Tony Jones, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2012 and coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame softball and men’s soccer programs. A native of Jamestown, New York, Jones is a 2011 graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and prior to arriving at Notre Dame held positions at the University of Louisiana at Monroe and with the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills.