The United States have a scheduling problem. It always seems like they are playing shorthanded during friendlies because of a weakened roster. Whether it's a European friendly during a crucial part of the MLS season or a friendly on a non-official FIFA date, there are usually significant omissions. Is this an excuse for the recent run of poor form? Possibly. It certainly makes it difficult for players to develop chemistry with each other and grind out meaningless results. And that's okay. This is the time to experiment. However, these experiments need to provide results in terms of discovering new talent.
Much to the chagrin of Jurgen Klinsmann, a sizable percentage of the current and future player pool play their club soccer in Major League Soccer. Like it or not, MLS is our top flight domestic league and will be feeding talent to our national team for as long as it exists. With another cash-grab of a friendly against Mexico on a non-FIFA date approaching, we'll see another roster constructed predominantly of MLS-based talent.
You are aware of big name American players who play in MLS such as Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, and Mix Diskerud. But what other great or promising Americans play in the league and are in, or at least on the fringe, of Klinsmann's player pool?
These are the first choice no-brainer selections that we believe Jurgen Klinsmann is guaranteed to call in for the next meaningful roster. With a new cycle beginning this group will be small with a rapidly changing and unpredictable player pool.
Nick Rimando - With Tim Howard on hiatus and Klinsmann unwilling to trust Bill Hamid yet, Rimando looks set in stone as the No. 2 behind Brad Guzan.
Jermaine Jones - Whether it's as a center back or a midfielder, Jurgen looks ready to ride Jones until his proverbial wheels fall off.
Michael Bradley - Debate his best position all you'd like. There is no debate that Bradley is one of, if not the, most important players in the entire pool.
Clint Dempsey - Only time will tell if Deuce will make it all the way to Russia '18, but the captain has shown no signs of slowing down yet.
Jozy Altidore - The up and down roller coaster that is Jozy's career seems to be hitting another upward incline. Until another striker steps up and challenges him, Jozy is still the best striker in the pool.
In The Mix
After the obvious choices, there is a logjam of players fighting for the remaining spots on the next full team roster. Some of these are aging veterans fighting to keep a place, while others are up and coming youngsters trying to make a name for themselves. These are players who Klinsmann has recently called up or is known to rate highly.
Bill Hamid - If depth chart choices were based strictly on club performance, Hamid would have a strong case for the back-up goalkeeper spot. The 2014 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year has picked up this season right where he left off last.
Sean Johnson - Johnson had a good January Camp, but is on the outside looking in as far as a roster spot is concerned.
Omar Gonzalez - Inconsistency is the biggest reason Omar doesn't find himself in the Locks category at this time. With the center back spot in such a volatile state, it is up to him to stake his claim as a starter.
Matt Besler - After living the dream of starting in a World Cup, it's been nothing but a nightmare for Besler since returning from Brazil. He is in serious danger of losing a starting spot, if he hasn't already.
Matt Hedges - A consistent performer at the club level, Hedges has yet to get a real chance to show his capabilities. With several center back spots up for grabs, he still has an outside shot at winning one.
Steve Birnbaum - A strong January camp impressed Klinsmann, but a lengthy ankle injury has hurt his chances of strengthening his case for a Gold Cup spot.
Brad Evans - Evans was called up for the camp in January but had to withdraw because of injury. It has been speculated that he was called in to play center back and with his poor transition to the position at the club level, it's hard to see him getting another call up.
Shane O'Neill - A candidate to lead the U.S. backline in Olympic qualifying efforts, O'Neill has seen his promising form dip recently. Training with the team in January camp didn't translate into minutes, but he's at least on the radar.
Christian Dean - Dean was a surprising addition to the U-23 team considering he plays very sparingly for the Whitecaps. Without consistent first team minutes it's hard to see him factoring in anytime soon.
Oscar Sorto - Much like Dean, Sorto sees little to no playing time with his club's first team. With the right back pool looking weak domestically, Sorto could be the right back by default during Olympic qualifying.
Brek Shea - What a revelation Shea has been at left back. Not only is he looking strangely competent on defensive side, he's scoring spectacular goals as well.
Dillon Serna - With a severe lack of left back options for the Olympic team, Serna should get the chance to impress during qualifying. However, if his club minutes continue to dwindle he's in trouble after the U-23 team's journey ends.
Maurice Edu - Veteran Mo Edu missed out on the 2014 World Cup and is currently on the outside looking in. Could a recent position change to center back help his USMNT cause? Quite possibly.
Mix Diskerud - Did Mix signing with an MLS team put him on Klinsmann's naughty list? Who knows. Unless technically-gifted players start growing on trees, expect Mix to be in Jurgen's plans for the foreseeable future.
Wil Trapp - One of the best distributors in the player pool, Trapp's defensive inefficiencies are his biggest obstacle towards the USMNT.
Lee Nguyen - After an MVP-worthy club season, Nguyen only got a handful of minutes in the January camp. Klinsmann seems reluctant to fully buy into the Lee Nguyen stock. The Mexico game will be a huge chance for him to improve his standing.
Kyle Beckerman - Some may be surprised to see Beckerman not in the Locks category. No one can deny his short-term value, but his age is cause for major concern heading into the future.
Perry Kitchen - One candidate to replace Kyle is Perry Kitchen. He is a rock in the midfield for DC United and could be the successor at defensive midfielder that Jurgen is looking for.
Luis Gil - There as been much hype surrounding Luis Gil his whole professional career. Unfortunately, he's done very little to justify the hype and has hit a major career plateau in MLS. 2015 will be a make or break year for Gil and his international future.
Graham Zusi - A hamstring injury will likely rule out Zusi for the Mexico game. This injury comes at a horrible time with his stock rapidly falling since starting every game at the 2014 World Cup.
Brad Davis - The aging left footed set piece specialist was a controversial World Cup roster selection by Jurgen. Davis wasn't called into the January camp and it's unlikely we'll see him again.
Chris Wondolowski - Everyone has an opinion on Chris Wondolowski. Whether you hate him, love him, or are indifferent, you can't ignore that he scores goals at the club level. With striker options limited, expect him to continue getting call ups.
Gyasi Zardes - In his first start for the USMNT Gyasi Zardes was very impressive. Ever since he's played several positions and looked very mediocre in each one. His versatility and athleticism helps his cause, but he'll have to start producing during his opportunities.
Deserves A Look
Now the fun part. We put our manager cap on and list players who we think deserve a look with the USMNT. Uncapped or exiled, whatever the case, these are players that have been ignored by Klinsmann.
Steve Clark - Our goalkeeping future seems to be in the hands of Hamid and Johnson, but Steve Clark is a reliable option who has performed at several different levels.
Luis Robles - Much like Clark, Robles is reliable and experienced. While both don't possess the high upside, they rarely make mistakes and would not look out of place at the international level.
Chris Schuler - The center back pool is in a state of flux at the moment. Schuler is a rock at the back for RSL and a physical presence that could greatly benefit the USMNT.
Robbie Rogers - Capable of playing multiple positions well and his ability to play with both feet, Robbie Rogers could serve as a utility player much like Fabian Johnson.
Dax McCarty - In the USMNT wilderness since 2011, Dax could provide a much-needed grit and composure in the holding midfield spot. Dax is not the most talented player, but could be a solid role player for the national team.
Amobi Okugo - Another option at the defensive midfield spot, fan favorite Amobi Okugo is smart player with above-average technical ability. He also possesses valuable versatility to play center back. It's hard to pinpoint what Klinsmann has never called him in.
Benny Feilhaber - Six years ago Benny was destined to be the next great USA No.10. However, due to on-field inconsistency and his questionable relationship with coaches, his USMNT stock has tumbled. With a need for a dynamic attacking midfielder, Klinsmann should re-evaluate his stance on Benny.
Luis Silva - Speaking of dynamic attacking midfielders, Silva is a talented player capable of scoring spectacular goals and picking out a killer pass. He could provide a much needed flair the player pool seems to be missing.
Kelyn Rowe - Winger is a position of need for the USMNT. Rowe has the technical ability and playmaking abilities to succeed on the international level.
Harry Shipp - If you value technical ability, then you are probably a huge Harry Shipp fan. His great technique mixed with his ability to pick out a killer pass both from the run of play and on set pieces make him a strong USMNT candidate.
Ethan Finlay - Another winger that could be attractive to Jurgen is the speedy Ethan Finlay. He had a breakout 2014 season with the Crew and could be a nice change-of-pace option.
Juan Agudelo - Finally Juan Agudelo has settled his club situation and is back to playing first team soccer. He is tremendously talented and should make his way back into the USMNT fold once he's back to full match fitness.
Prospects To Watch
The kids are our future. This group of talented MLS youngsters are players we think have real bright futures and could feature for the USMNT sometime in the future. For argument purposes we only included players 21 years old or younger.
Erik Palmer-Brown - The 17-year-old center back has drawn interest from Italian giants Juventus. Palmer-Brown is a strong candidate to start for the US U-20 team at the U-20 World Cup this May.
Matt Miazga - Another center back from the U-20 team is Miazga. The raw 19-year-old has already seen significant minutes for RBNY and has the room to develop into a solid USMNT option.
Walker Zimmerman - Injures have slowed down Zimmerman's career development significantly. Still only 21-years-old, the FC Dallas center back still has a tremendous upside.
Fatai Alashe - A relatively unknown quantity coming into the 2015 season, Fatai Alashe has emerged as an Olympic team option at defensive midfielder. The 21-year-old is a physically imposing force in the midfield and could be on the fast track to the USMNT at a position of need.
Kellyn Acosta - Versatility is a rare trait to see at such a young age. Acosta is capable of playing as a midfielder and as a right back. Keep an eye out for him at the U-20 World Cup as well.
Christian Roldan - Somehow Christian Roldan has never featured for the USA at any youth level. The Seattle Sounders first round draft pick has already seen his first professional start and is impressing his manager Sigi Schmid.
Jose Villarreal - At only 21-years-old Jose Villarreal has already experienced many ups and downs in his short career. After breaking onto the scene as a top prospect with the Galaxy, he hit a roadblock that saw him riding the bench in the Mexican second division. Now he's back with LA and looks to have overcome early adversity to return to promising prospect status.
Jordan Allen - A product of the excellent Real Salt Lake academy, Jordan Allen scored his first MLS goal and secured his first start at just 19-years-old.
Tommy Thompson - The Thompson hype train is currently stalled on the tracks under a new manager. However, the 19-year-old technically gifted forward is still and bundle of potential just waiting to be released.
Bradford Jamieson IV - The LA Galaxy love raw potential. Nothing signifies this love more than the 18-year-old Jamieson. He is as raw as the come, but has shown flashes of brilliant skill that make him a highly rated prospect.
Another pipeline of talent feeding the USMNT is our collection of dual-citizens. Whether they were born in America or naturalized through bureaucratic process, they are American citizens an eligible to represent the national team. This collection of players are on the verge of obtaining U.S. citizenship and could help the cause.
Darlington Nagbe - Despite his lack of statistical offensive production, Nagbe is a technical wizard who could improve the USMNT as soon as he gains US citizenship in September. His versatility to be able to play as an attacking midfielder or a winger will be a very nice addition to the player pool.
Kekuta Manneh - A dynamic winger with pace, technique, and flair is something sorely lacking in the current USMNT crop. Manneh possesses all of these attributes and could obtain US citizenship as early as later this year. It's unclear of his intentions but he could be a nice addition if he fulfills his potential.
Tesho Akindele - The 2014 MLS Rookie of the Year Akindele is a U.S. citizen already, but remains ineligible due to a age-related FIFA rule. When he turns 23 in March he should gain eligibility. It remains to be seen if he's actually good enough to make a difference to the player pool.
Dom Dwyer - Mr. Sydney Leroux is a consistent goal threat at the MLS level and if circumstances stay the same could be be granted U.S. citizenship in 2017. With the striker depth chart currently very thin, Dwyer could play an important role for the USMNT if he's willing to wait.