If you've been starving for meaningful U.S. national team matches to look forward to, the wait just got longer.
CONCACAF's announcement earlier this week of the format for the new Nations League competition revealed what had already been feared, that the United States won't be playing a meaningful match until the summer of 2019, at the Gold Cup. The U.S. won't begin Nations League play until the fall of 2019, meaning we have 16 months before U.S. players will return to action with something tangible on the line.
The wait isn't quite so long when you think about the looming appointment of a new head coach, which is expected to be made after the World Cup. Once a new boss is in charge, the work to impress him and earn places in the next World Cup qualifying cycle can begin, making his first friendlies with the U.S. vitally important. There won't be Nations Cup matches to play, but there is a good chance high-profile friendlies against South American powers like Argentina and Brazil will be on the docket.
That is still more than six months away though, and with the next U.S. match likely to take place in late May, the upcoming friendly against Paraguay offers a good chance to take a look at some younger prospects who have been making waves overseas. Caretaker coach Dave Sarachan has done well to focus on youth since replacing Bruce Arena, and he should continue that when the U.S. holds its upcoming camp in Cary, North Carolina.
Sarachan will have the option to call a full-strength squad due to the international window, but it still seems unlikely we will see the return of veterans like Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, or Clint Dempsey. All three are currently busy with MLS and CONCACAF Champions League, and all three would probably be best served skipping 2018 with the national team, or at the very least sitting out until a new coach is in charge. Sarachan echoed those same sentiments, making the March squad more likely to be another collection of young talent.
With MLS having just kicked off, Sarachan could choose to limit the number of MLS players he calls in, especially with some MLS matches taking place during the window when the U.S. camp will be held, but the relative lack of strong foreign-based options may force him to call in at least a few MLS options.
Here is a look at the team we could see called in for the March March 27 friendly against Paraguay:
Bill Hamid, Ethan Horvath, Brady Scott, William Yarbrough
The days of the deep crop of American goalkeepers in Europe are behind us, and the reality is there isn't an American starting in net in a top European league. The only American netminder current starting in a foreign first division? Club Leon's Yarbrough, who has played well enough to merit a return to the U.S. setup. The 28-year-old has been starting regularly in Liga MX, which is more than can be said Hamid, who has been stuck on the bench at Danish side Mitdjylland since moving from D.C. United on a free transfer.
FC Cologne and U.S. Under-20 prospect Brady Scott impressed at the January U.S. youth summit and could merit a look, though you could make a similar case for Jonathan Klinsmann. Ethan Horvath hasn't played in an official match for Club Brugge since October, and could thus be skipped in favor of an MLS goalkeeper. Toronto FC has a bye week during the window, which could allow Alex Bono to be called in.
DeAndre Yedlin, Timmy Chandler, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Matt Miazga, Erik Palmer-Brown, Justen Glad, Antonee Robinson, Shaq Moore
If there's a position to be excited about for this camp, and squad, it's central defense. Miazga, Carter-Vickers and Palmer-Brown are all seeing regular first-team minutes in Europe, and all three should play key roles in the next cycle. John Brooks would be a shoe-in for this camp if he hadn't been sidelined all year with a toe injury. Without him, Sarachan could look to bring in someone like Tim Ream for a veteran presence. Geoff Cameron would seem to make more sense, but it is safe to say he has burned all his bridges with the current U.S. setup and isn't likely to see a call-up again until a new coach is hired.
At fullback, Chandler is an interesting case because he's in the midst of an excellent season at Eintracht Frankfurt and should be a lock, but will he be called or left in Germany? Moore has fallen out of the first-team picture at Levante, but the La Liga-based right back still merits a look after having enjoyed a stretch of starts in Spain. English-born left back Antonee Robinson has been a steady starter at Bolton (on loan from Everton) and should get a look, especially at a traditionally thin position.
Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Keaton Parks, Kenny Saief, Danny Williams, Joe Corona, Kekuta Manneh, Kyle Scott
The New York Red Bulls have a match the weekend before the Paraguay friendly, so Tyler Adams is unlikely to be called in, but this camp is a perfect opportunity to have a look at Parks, who is enjoying a good stretch at Benfica, featuring for its reserve side in Portugal's second division. Williams gives the team a good veteran option, and took over leadership duties when the team convened last November. D.C. United has a game during the window as well, which will likely rule out Paul Arriola.
The camp should be a good opportunity for both Pulisic and McKennie to earn a start and get 90 minutes as both have fallen out of the starting lineups for their respective teams. Joe Corona isn't an every-game starter for Club America, but he has shown well in the matches he has been given starts in.
Saeif is enjoying a good stretch with Anderlecht, and hasn't been with the U.S. since his debut last summer. Now healthy, this camp would be an excellent opportunity to bring him in and see if he can play a prominent role in the attack.
Manneh has begun to earn some regular minutes with Liga MX side Pachuca, starting in the team's past three Copa MX matches. The speedy winger has yet to play for the United States after becoming a citizen in 2016, but this camp could be a good chance to bring him into the fold.
Chelsea prospect Kyle Scott made his first team debut recently, and given the fact he's eligible for multiple countries, it may not be a bad thing to bring the U.S. Under-20 midfielder in for a look.
Aron Johannsson, Andrija Novakovich, Rubio Rubin, Timothy Weah
After returning from injury purgatory, and the depths of the Werder Bremen bench, Johannsson is back and producing in the German Bundesliga and should be a call-up for the March camp. Novakovich has settled in well with Dutch second-division side Telstar, and the former U.S. Under-20 striker should earn a look, especially if Sarachan passes on calling in MLS options.
Weah is a particularly exciting prospect. The Under-17 World Cup standout recently made his first-team debut with Paris St. Germain, and has yet to spend time with the U.S. senior team setup. The March camp would be a perfect opportunity.
Rubin has settled in quickly at Club Tijuana, earning some minutes just weeks after arriving. He impressed at the U.S. January camp, and should see another look from Sarachan.