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Tracing history and the value of January United States national team camp

Jan 4, 2014, 10:05 PM EDT

United States v Costa Rica - FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier Getty Images

History says that it’s not too late to make a big break into the national team scene at the most important time possible, just ahead of a World Cup.

The dynamics are surely different in 2014; so many of the ways and means are different under Jurgen Klinsmann, who is never afraid to be unconventional in his methods or to push boundaries.

Still, there is surely still a chance that someone from this group of 26, those named Friday to the roster for January’s annual camp, can climb the order and find a way into prime position. Even if they get within striking distance of a roster spot, that puts some young man one ankle turn away from a World Cup roster spot … a truly golden opportunity for any young player, because a World Cup on the CV is a real game-changer.

Here are the late-comers who arrived into prominence previously via January camp (some in World Cup years, but not all):

  • 2002: You were a pretty good domestic soccer fan in 2001 if you knew Pablo Mastroeni, a tough and talented up-and-comer who had just completed a fantastic season with soon-to-expire Miami. He entered the January camp that year uncapped in World Cup qualifiers. But when Chris Armas was injured in the World Cup run-up, Mastroeni found himself a starter in Korea. A starter!
  • 2006: Jimmy Conrad got his first national team attention in the 2005 January camp. By that summer he was a Gold Cup contributor, and a year after that Conrad became a major part of the 2006 World Cup effort, making critical appearances against Ghana and Italy.
  • 2012: Two years ago Graham Zusi and Geoff Cameron were peripheral figures with the national team, just hopefuls, really. But both made starts in 1-0 wins against Venezuela and Panama to finish that camp. Zusi even contributed the game-winner in Panama City, and they have more or less been national team fixtures since then.
  • 2013: Matt Besler (pictured above) was uncapped at this time one year ago. Let that sink in. He was named to the January camp a year back, made an impression (clearly) and got his first cap on Jan. 29 of 2013 against Canada. By March he was a center back starter alongside Omar Gonzalez. Still is.

  1. hildezero - Jan 5, 2014 at 2:03 AM

    Mix Diskerud is the player that I know for sure that will be in the 2014 World Cup.

    • Sgc - Jan 5, 2014 at 5:48 PM

      He’s already odds-on, which means he probably ‘doesn’t count’ as a guy who could get his NT career kick-stared by the January camp.

      I’d say if you were looking for an uncapped or almost uncapped player to make the roster this time around, look at the wide backs: Chris Klute, Michael Harrington, Chance Myers, and De’Andre Yedlin are all pretty new faces at two positions of general weakness for the US team. Maybe Shane O’Neill at CB.

      Given history, it shouldn’t be too surprising if someone from that list sneaks onto the roster.

  2. bishopofblunder - Jan 6, 2014 at 5:36 PM

    It is rather incredible that Besler was uncapped a mere 12 months ago.

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