There are no new faces in the U.S. national team camp ahead of the upcoming World Cup qualifiers, meaning MLS standouts will have to wait for January to impress Jurgen Klinsmann.Jurgen Klinsmann’s decision to bring in a full-strength squad for the October qualifiers has meant fewer opportunities for players who have yet to be a part of the U.S. national team set up, which in turn makes the January national team that much more important for a collection of MLS standouts who have yet to appear for the USA.
The 2013 MLS season has seen several players step up and enjoy outstanding seasons, and in the process make good cases for consideration by Klinsmann. Many them are also the league’s younger standouts. They are unlikely to get looks for Novembers friendlies, but Klinsmann will have prospects to choose from at a variety of positions.
While it is unlikely that Klinsmann calls in a camp full of entirely new faces in January, there are options at every position emerging from MLS and the next two months should only serve to spotlight some of those prospects even more.
Here is a Best XI of uncapped prospects Klinsmann will have to consider calling up when the January U.S. national team camp rolls around. It is a group that is young, with the January camp letting Klinsmann see players with an eye toward the future as well as potentially finding a player capable of making the jump into the national team side. Keep that in mind when you see some younger options named instead of some older and more established options.
The Colorado Rapids goalkeeper emerged from obscurity to grab hold of the starting job in Colorado and he’s impressed ever since. His good positioning, consistency and ability to make the big save make him a prospect to watch.
Left back is a position of need for the USA and Colorado’s Klute has been the best left back in the league this season, his first in the American top flight. He is fast, a solid defender and provides good service.
There are a variety of good right back options, but few are as exciting a prospect as the speedy Yedlin. He will have his growing pains, but has more upside than any other fullback in the pool. If Klinsmann thinks he’s still a bit too young, Houston’s Kofi Sarkodie is also worth considering.
If Klinsmann wants a centerback who combines athleticism with good ball skills, he could do worse than consider Okugo, the converted fullback who has anchored a Philadelphia Union defense that leads the league in shutouts. FC Dallas’ Matt Hedges is a technical centerback who could also merit consideration.
Once considered a sure-fire U.S. national team prospect before foot injuries derailed his career, Opara has found new life with Sporting KC, where he has managed to earn 13 starts despite sharing time with arguably the best centerback tandem in MLS. Chicago’s Austin Berry isn’t quite as athletic, but he’s been steady for the Fire.
The third Rapids player on the list, Powers has been a revelation in central midfield for Colorado. He is a box-to-box player who can threaten on set pieces, deliver the incisive pass and also score goals of his own. He hasn’t looked like a rookie all season, and will earn a national team call eventually.
The young defensive midfielder has been one of the few consistent bright spots in D.C. United’s disappointing season, and he continues to impress with his consistency and tireless work rate.
A standout on the U.S. Under-20 World Cup team, Gil has put another year as a Real Salt Lake starter under his belt and continues to improve. If Klinsmann still thinks Gil is a bit too young, D.C. United's Chris Pontius is someone who has been on Klinsmann's radar before and could get a call.
Enjoying a breakout sophomore campaign with the New England Revolution, Rowe is a technically-gifted playmaker who isn’t afraid to run at defenses and can score as easily as set up goals.
We know how much Klinsmann loves Sounders players, and the biggest surprise on the Sounders this season not named Yedlin is Neagle, who provides versatility, speed and some impressive finishing ability. D.C. United’s Nick DeLeon is someone else Klinsmann will want to think about taking a look at.
He’s still young at 21, and has had his share of growing pains as a Los Angeles Galaxy rookie, but in terms of uncapped forward prospects in MLS, there aren’t many with more promise than he has. Zardes has been seeing time on the left wing, which should only serve to round out his game. Jack McInerney is another uncapped forward to consider, but his recent slump might drop him off Klinsmann’s radar for now.