On Monday, the United States' World Cup player pool will be cut to 30. Two and a half years of Jurgen Klinsmann, which has seen him give dozens and dozens of players a look, will be cut to 30. The following day, those players will report to training camp and the Americans' World Cup summer will officially be underway.
At this point, Klinsmann has a pretty good idea of who he plans to take to Brazil, but that could obviously change. A couple spots could go either way and whether it is injury or form, a player or two could change Klinsmann's mind. On top of that, Klinsmann has preached competition time and time again of late so everyone at World Cup training camp at Stanford University will play a role in one way or another.
So who makes the 30-man preliminary roster and World Cup training camp? Here is our projected roster (with players who will not make the World Cup roster in italics):
Goalkeepers (3): Brad Guzan, Tim Howard, Nick Rimando.
This is the easiest projection to make. It has been clear for years who the top three goalkeepers in the U.S. player pool are and while players like Bill Hamid, Sean Johnson and Cody Cropper have been called up to gain experience, none are near international ready right now. In Howard, you have a veteran in good form and a clear No. 1, while Guzan may be an even better goalkeeper and Rimando has been MLS's best for years, with a great attitude that is essential for a third string keeper that is highly unlikely to play a match all tournament.
Defenders (8): DaMarcus Beasley, Matt Besler, John Brooks, Geoff Cameron, Brad Evans, Clarence Goodson, Omar Gonzalez, DeAndre Yedlin.
Six of the defenders going to Brazil appear pretty locked up. While there is question about who pairs with Besler in central defense, Gonzalez, Goodson and Cameron should all be there to give Klinsmann options and cover. Beasley is the starting left back for Klinsmann and Evans is the starting right back, although Fabian Johnson and Cameron could change that. Cameron is an option at right back and centerback, while Johnson can play either fullback position, allowing Klinsmann to take just seven defenders when many teams take eight.
The question is who the last one will be. Brooks has a chance to make training camp, where he can gain valuable experience as a worst case scenario, and how hope athleticism earns him a spot on the roster as a best case. DeAndre Yedlin will also get a look because of his speed and his ability to be a defensive-minded ring winger late in matches the U.S. leads Timothy Chandler, Michael Orozco and Tim Ream all have claims to make, but with the core group so set and questions at midfield and striker, taking extra defenders doesn't make a lot of sence
Midfielders (12): Kyle Beckerman, Alejandro Bedoya, Michael Bradley, Brad Davis, Joe Corona, Mix Diskerud, Landon Donovan, Maurice Edu, Fabian Johnson, Jermaine Jones, Danny Williams, Graham Zusi.
Midfield might be the toughest for Klinsmann to sort out because he has the most options there and because he is going to want options to play the two, three or four different ways he insists they will need in Brazil. Still, Brek Shea fails to make the preliminary roster after what was essentially a wasted year and Sacha Kljestan has never been a Klinsmann favorite and struggled for playing time down the stretch at Anderlecht, while Benny Feilhaber couldn't even get on the field in January camp.
So that leaves us with 11 midfielders. Bradley, Beckerman, Donovan (who Klinsmann sees as more of a striker), Johnson, Jones and Zusi are going to Brazil, but Klinsmann is going to want one more defensive-minded player as cover and that is where Edu and Williams come in. Klinsmann has also preached the importance of competition and that is what he will get from Bedoya, Davis, Corona and Diskerud for the attacking midfielder/winger spots. Each brings something different to the table, with Bedoya's pace and versatility, Davis' dead balls and crossing prowess, Corona's versatility and energy, and Diskerud's technicality. Who makes the final team may depend on Klinsmann's game plan against each team in the World Cup or who shows best in camp, but this group gives him options, cover and competition.
Forwards (7): Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo, Clint Dempsey, Julian Green, Aron Johannsson, Eddie Johnson, Chris Wondolowski.
Dempsey is the captain and will be the first man on the plane to Brazil, while Altidore is locked in even after a bad season for Sunderland. He struggled for the U.S. when playing well at the club level and starred for the U.S. when struggling for his club so he's making the trip and as the No. 1 striker. Johannsson is also making the trip as the most in-form forward, while Green is young, dynamic and will gain valuable experience in Brazil.
The question is who the final forward is and that is why Klinsmann calls in Agudelo, Johnson and Wondolowski. They all can make decent claims to the spot so they will have a training camp to prove why they deserve the place. Agudelo is the most well-rounded striker and playing well for Utrecht, while Wondolowski is a poacher and Johnson offers pace and athleticism. If Johnson was in any decent form, let alone the form he was in last summer, he makes the trip, but he's been terrible for D.C. United and needs a strong camp to earn his place back. The good news for Johnson is he has potential on the wing and if he can show that he's a viable option out there, that could allow he and another forward to make the team, forcing out a midfielder or Green if the youngster shows he can't hack it at the international level yet.
Terrence Boyd has been scoring for Rapid Vienna and offers a more physical presence, but the numbers may squeeze him out. Even if Boyd has a chance to make the squad because he can make an impact late in matches, it will be tough for Klinsmann to bring in eight forwards.
After Klinsmann names his 30-man preliminary roster, he will have two weeks of training and two friendlies to cut his roster for 30 to 23. On June 2, one day after the U.S. plays Turkey in a friendly, Klinsmann will have to submit his 23-man roster to FIFA for the World Cup, a roster that will be locked barring injury before the tournament. From there, the U.S. will play their final Send-Off Series match against Nigeria, then fly to Sao Paulo to train there, play Belgium in a closed-door friendly and prepare for the World Cup.
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