With the 2014 World Cup in the rearview mirror, and the U.S. national team set to resume action in a month, here are some new faces we could see in Jurgen Klinsmann's squad.Thinking about the 2018 World Cup, much less planning for it, might seem like a crazy proposition considering the sights and sounds of a very successful 2014 World Cup are still so fresh in the mind. It isn't crazy for the select few coaches that have kept their jobs after Brazil, and certainly not a stretch for Jurgen Klinsmann, who has to see the next World Cup as his chance to help the USA catapult to new heights.
Klinsmann's four-year journey to Russia will truly begin in a month's time, when the U.S. national team plays its first two friendlies since walking off the field in Salvador following a frustrating, though at times exciting, round of 16 loss to Belgium.
Klinsmann made it clear that the U.S. team needs to get better, and he also promised to start mining the national team's pool for younger talent capable of developing into key pieces for 2018. The statement felt like an ultimatum to the team's older players not to take a callback for granted, though based on comments from players like Clint Dempsey and DaMarcus Beasley, it doesn't seem like any of the team's key players (save maybe for Tim Howard) is all that interested in walking away.
Klinsmann's first chance to start looking ahead to the next World Cup will come in September, with friendlies against the Czech Republic in Prague, and then in San Antonio against a tough Colombia side coming off an impressive World Cup (though the friendly has yet to be formally announced). With the matches so far apart distance-wise, Klinsmann could begin his scouting in a big way by calling in two separate teams, one European-based side for the Czech Republic match, and a second MLS-based group for the Colombia match. Doing so would allow him to bring in veterans like Dempsey and Beasley without taxing their schedules too much, while also affording the opportunity to see even more new faces.
So who will Klinsmann be taking a look at when the U.S. team returns to action next month? Here are some players he will want to consider calling in:
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Perhaps no young American goalkeeper has shown more growth in 2014 than Bill Hamid, who appears to really have matured with D.C. United this season. Hamid looks ready to jump into the mix now that both Howard and Nick Rimando look ready to move into the national team sunset. Sean Johnson and Clint Irwin are also goalkeepers who could earn looks next month.
Across the pond, the number of young goalkeepers is pretty scarce, with Cody Cropper highly-regarded as a bright prospect. The Southampton netminder isn't seeing first-team games just yet, but has been a part of U.S. camps before and should earn a call-in for the Czech Republic match.
Klinsmann already tapped into the defensive youth ranks prior to the 2014 World Cup with the inclusions of John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin, and with both panning out so well, Klinsmann has to feel good about his nucleus of defenders going forward. MLS has some intriguing defensive prospects, such as FC Dallas central defender Matt Hedges, Philadelphia full back Ray Gaddis and central defender Amobi Okugo, Real Salt Lake center back Chris Schuler and recently converted LA Galaxy midfielder Robbie Rogers, who has been the best left back in MLS since being moved there by Bruce Arena.
In Europe, Klinsmann will want to take a look at Birmingham City central defender Will Packwood, as well as Bolton center back Tim Ream. He will also want to consider taking a look at Bundesliga 2 full back Alfredo Morales, who hasn't been in with the team for some time, but is versatile and still only 24.
Down in Mexico, Greg Garza (22) is starting at left back for Club Tijuana and seems a safe bet to earn a look.
If Klinsmann is looking for a youth movement, then the midfield offers several options for him, including defensive midfield prospects Wil Trapp and Perry Kitchen, as well as Chicago Fire playmaker Harry Shipp. Colorado midfielder Dillon Powers has also been extremely impressive, and seems a safe bet to earn a look, especially if Klinsmann calls an MLS-heavy squad to face Colombia. Luis Gil would have been considered a lock before the season, but injuries and inconsistency have dropped him down the depth chart a bit.
In Europe, Arsenal prospect Gedion Zelalem is someone Klinsmann might consider inviting to attend camp, even if he may not yet be eligible to actually play for the United States. Joe Gyau is off to a good start with the Borussia Dortmund reserves, and is someone Klinsmann will want to take a look at in order to see if the speedster is on the right track. On the defensive midfield front, Freiburg midfielder Caleb Stanko recently graduated to the Bundesliga side's first team and is someone to keep an eye on this season. Klinsmann may want an early look at the former U.S. Under-20 captain.
There are several very young and skilled midfielders overseas who are still trying to find their footing as pros, such as teenage Fulham midfielder Emerson Hyndman, and recent FC Utrecht signing Rubio Rubin, and even Borussia Dortmund prospect Junior Flores. Those are definitely names for the future, but it seems unlikely Klinsmann will go quite that young in the September friendlies.
There is not a more in-form young American forward right now than 22-year-old Galaxy striker Gyasi Zardes, who should earn a look in September given his form this season. Jack McInerney has settled in with Montreal since being traded, but might still be a step away from a call-up.
In Europe, 1860 Munich forward Bobby Wood is someone Klinsmann has considered in the past, and with the 21-year-old forward starting in Bundesliga 2, now might be a good time to take a good look at him. German-born Mainz forward Shawn Parker is another dual national on Klinsmann's radar, and someone he will want to start courting sooner rather than later.