Juergen Klinsmann has invited 26 players to the U.S. national team’s winter training camp, a low-key gathering to launch a World Cup year. The camp is designed for MLS players in offseason and includes only one European-based player on a similar break: Rosenborg (Norway) midfielder Mikkel Diskerud. All other U.S. regulars in Europe and Mexico remain on club duty.
Camp will open Monday in Carson, Calif., for a week of training. The squad will then travel to Sao Paulo — the U.S. team’s World Cup base this summer — for about two weeks. They will then return for a Feb. 1 friendly against South Korea at StubHub Center in Carson.
Goalkeeper Bill Hamid, who is as high as fifth on Klinsmann’s depth chart, and veteran forward Eddie Johnson will represent D.C. United.
In past years, the winter camp has been the subject of derision because most of the call-ups had little hope of staking a claim to a regular role with the national team. But this camp is different because about a dozen players are in serious contention for a World Cup roster slot. Klinsmann mandated that those from MLS seeking a ticket to Brazil report to camp or seek a loan arrangement overseas. (Seattle’s Clint Dempsey joined Fulham in the Premier League for two months.)
The complete roster:
GOALKEEPERS: Tally Hall (Houston Dynamo), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake).
DEFENDERS: Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Omar Gonzalez (L.A. Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), Michael Harrington (Portland Timbers), Chris Klute (Colorado Rapids), Chance Myers (Sporting Kansas City), Shane O’Neill (Colorado Rapids), Seth Sinovic (Sporting Kansas City), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders).
MIDFIELDERS: Eric Alexander (New York Red Bulls), Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mikkel Diskerud (Rosenborg), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City), Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake), Dax McCarty (New York Red Bulls), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City).
FORWARDS: Landon Donovan (L.A. Galaxy), Eddie Johnson (D.C. United), Mike Magee (Chicago Fire), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes).
What to make of the roster?
We can divide the group into three categories: players with a strong case to make the World Cup team; MLS veterans hoping to raise their stock with a strong camp; and those regarded as long-term prospects.
The first group: Rimando, Besler, Evans, Gonzalez, Goodson, Beckerman, Diskerud, Zusi, Donovan, Johnson.
The second: Davis, Feilhaber, Magee, Wondolowski.
The third: Everyone else.
Most intriguing figure: Magee, the 2013 MLS most valuable player with 21 goals. At age 29, the Chicago Fire forward has never appeared in a U.S. senior national team match. His previous camp invitation was in 2004.
Most intriguing prospects: Gil and Yedlin. Both are 20 years old. Gil offers midfield flash, while Yedlin (third in MLS rookie of the year voting in 2013) is an outside (right) back — a shallow position on Klinsmann’s depth chart.
Nine players have no caps and two others have made one appearance.
Conversely, Donovan and Johnson have combined for 215 appearances and 76 goals.