As the United States welcomed back 6 regulars to the roster and prepare for their Gold Cup quarterfinal matchup tomorrow night, many fans were asking the important questions that need to be answered. No, I’m not talking about whether they’re ready to play or whether they’ve developed some camaraderie with the players that were already on the roster. We know that has already occurred. The real question fans want to know is: what numbers will the new players wear?
When the initial USMNT 23-man roster was announced, numbers were issued 1-23, in line with CONCACAF rules for the Gold Cup. You may recall when Kenny Saief was dropped from the roster due to injury and replaced with Chris Pontius, Pontius took the #7 jersey that Saief was wearing. That was because CONCACAF allowed the initial 23-man roster to include replacements for injury up until the day before the first match. Once the USMNT stepped onto the field against Panama, jersey numbers 1-23 were locked for the tournament.
However, what happens when players are set home after the group stage and the regulars are brought in? CONCACAF does not allow those players to assume the numbers of the players that are departing. They also don’t allow reshuffling so that players with established numbers can look familiar on the field. They must be issued numbers 24-29 depending on how many players are brought in (maximum of six). And thus, the CONCACAF Gold Cup is one of the only confederation tournaments in the world where you will see players wearing numbers above 23.
So, what are the new numbers for the entering players? Tim Howard will wear #24, Darlington Nagbe #25, Michael Bradley #26, Jozy Altidore #27, Clint Dempsey #28, and Jesse Gonzalez will have #29.
U.S. Soccer got with the players to determine why they chose the numbers they did. Tim Howard’s #24 should look familiar to USMNT fans who have followed his career, as it was his number while he was at Everton. He normally wears #1, but has worn #12 before when he was considered the backup goalkeeper in Jurgen Klinsmann’s last few months as USMNT head coach. He most recently wore #12 against Trinidad and Tobago last September in Jacksonville. Clint Dempsey apparently combined his number for the Seattle Sounders (2) with his traditional USMNT number (8) to get #28, though I personally do not buy that story, accepting 1000% that Deuce selected #28 because his home state of Texas was the 28th state that entered the Union. He literally wears that state on his arm, and I’m going to believe that had everything to do with his number selection. Michael Bradley apparently did some fuzzy math to arrive at #26, with 6-2 equaling his familiar #4. Jozy Altidore, who normally wears #17, took #27 instead.
Coincidentally, the last time Altidore, Bradley and Dempsey all wore different numbers than their usual #17, #4 and #8 was during the same match: a Leap Day friendly against Italy in Genoa on February 29, 2012. Back then, Klinsmann operated under the method of stripping the names off the backs of jerseys and assigning numbers 1-11 to starters based on the position they were going to play. Substitutes were assigned numbers 12-18. That day, Altidore wore #9, Bradley #6 and Dempsey #10. That day it worked, as Dempsey provided the only goal in the upset of the 4-time World Cup champions. Let’s hope that these new Gold Cup numbers, while unfamiliar to fans, bring some good luck for the players in the knockout stage.
Which number are you getting on the back of your new, smooth Gold Cup jersey?