After three qualifiers across 12 days and three weeks cooped up together in hotels and planes, the U.S. national team has suspended its fruitful quest for a World Cup berth until the next CONCACAF matchdays in September. Juergen Klinsmann‘s work, however, will continue through the summer with the Gold Cup and a pair of friendlies.
The European-based regulars have started their well-earned vacations and, with club training camps opening next month, will not participate in the Gold Cup. Reserves Clarence Goodson, Stuart Holden and Michael Parkhurst were the only three U.S. Euros from the recent get-together included on the 35-man preliminary tournament roster.
The deadline to submit Gold Cup rosters is next Thursday — 10 days ahead of the opening weekend of matches. That does not necessarily mean they’ll go public next Thursday. But it’s safe to assume Klinsmann will unveil his 23-man list shortly thereafter (if CONCACAF does not beat him to it first). The USSF is attempting to coordinate with the confederation about the roster release.
With several MLS and Mexican league players under consideration, there will be some personnel overlap between the qualifying and Gold Cup manifests. Players such as Joe Corona and Edgar Castillo seem likely to fill larger roles after sitting in reserve for the qualifiers. The new crew is likely to include Alejandro Bedoya, Josh Gatt and Mikkel Diskerud from Scandinavian leagues. Veterans Carlos Bocanegra, Landon Donovan and Oguchi Onyewu are also under consideration.
CONCACAF has added a roster wrinkle, as well: Teams will have the flexibility to make four changes after the group stage. (The moves must occur within 24 hours of group play ending and are permanent.)
It allows Klinsmann to save some players until the knockout round — it’s always dangerous to presume passage, but the Americans have never failed before — and ease the burden on MLS clubs that lost starters for the May-June camp. Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, Brad Evans, Brad Davis, Eddie Johnson and Graham Zusi fit in this category.
The CONCACAF policy would also allow Klinsmann to release European or Mexican league players back to their clubs after the group stage.
(Mexico has already set its Gold Cup roster.)
The initial U.S. delegation will gather July 1 in San Diego and face Guatemala in a friendly four days later at Qualcomm Stadium. The Americans will then play Belize (Portland), Cuba (Salt Lake City) and Costa Rica (Hartford) in the Gold Cup group stage. A first- or second-place finish would send them to Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium for a July 21 quarterfinal. Dallas and Chicago will host the semifinals and final, respectively.
After the regional championship, a largely European-based roster will regroup for an Aug. 14 friendly against Bosnia-Herzegovina in Sarajevo (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2). Bosnia is currently No. 15 in the FIFA rankings and atop Group G in Europe’s World Cup qualifying with five victories and one draw through six matches. It narrowly missed out on the 2010 World Cup and 2012 European Championship, losing a playoff against Portugal each time.
The United States has never played Bosnia, independent from Yugoslavia since 1992.
Looking ahead to the resumption of qualifiers, the Americans apparently will not have to contend with Saprissa Stadium in Costa Rica — an intimate and intimidating venue where they have never won. Instead, the two-year-old national stadium is scheduled to stage the showdown.
While another loss to the Ticos would drop the United States (4-1-1, 13) into second place, passage to Brazil next summer is almost certain.
U.S. point totals in the previous four final-round qualifying cycles (10 matches apiece):
1998: 17 points, clinched in Game 9 at Canada (Jamaica claimed the third and final automatic berth with 14 points)
2002: 17 points, clinched in Game 9 vs. Jamaica (USA finished third, three points ahead of Honduras)
2006: 22 points, clinched in Game 7 vs. Mexico (Costa Rica finished third with 16 points)
2010: 20 points, clinched in Game 9 at Honduras (Honduras finished third with 16 points)
USA’s remaining qualifiers
Sept. 6: at Costa Rica
Sept. 10: Mexico in Columbus, Ohio
Oct. 11: Jamaica in Kansas City, Kan.
Oct. 15: at Panama