The U.S. National Team has kicked off its pre-World Cup training camp at Stanford University and the next three weeks will determine which of those players will make the final cut and book a place at the World Cup.
There are just a handful of guaranteed spots locked up on the roster, with stars like Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard among the select few who have their starting jobs secured. The rest of the squad will be in the midst of serious battles, some for starting roles and others for places on the World Cup roster.
The fight for the final places on the 23-man team will be especially fierce, and there are some specific battles that will be worth paying extra attention to.
Here are five roster battles that will go a long way toward determining who Jurgen Klinsmann brings to Brazil.
CHRIS WONDOLOWSKI vs. TERRENCE BOYD
Wondolowski has scored in nearly every opportunity he has been given by Klinsmann, while Boyd is still searching for his first national team goal. So how are these two in competition? Boyd is an imposing physical presence who is also coming off a 20-goal season with Rapid Vienna. He is better suited for the target forward role, which makes him an ideal backup for Jozy Altidore. Wondolowski doesn’t have Boyd’s hold-up play, but he is a top-notch finisher who reads the game well and makes well-timed runs, always putting himself in position to find chances.
BRAD DAVIS vs. JULIAN GREEN
A battle of generations and a battle for the role of left-sided threat off the bench. Davis, 32, scored the winning penalty kick for the U.S. in the 2005 Gold Cup Final, when Green was just nine years old. Davis provides good service from the wing, and good set-piece delivery, while Green brings speed on the flanks, and a nose for goal. If Klinsmann wants Green to be the last guy on the roster so he can gain the experience of being part of a World Cup then Davis just might be out of luck, barring an injury in midfield.
KYLE BECKERMAN vs. MAURICE EDU
This one might not be as simple as an either/or pick. Beckerman looks like a safe bet to make the team, and is regarded as the most consistent and reliable defensive midfield option in the pool. Edu’s best chance to make the team is if Klinsmann decides he wants to have three defensive midfielders on the final roster, which seems a long shot. Edu’s ability to provide cover at centerback could help him as well, but heading into camp he is the underdog in this battle.
JOE CORONA vs. MIX DISKERUD
This one should be very interesting to follow as these former U.S. Under-23 teammates square off in a clash of potential attacking midfield understudies to Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley. Diskerud was preferred in central midfield to Corona in last summer’s Gold Cup, but Corona is coming off a strong Clausura campaign with Club Tijuana and his versatility could give him an edge. He can play wide or centrally, while Diskerud is strictly a central option.
TIMMY CHANDLER vs. MICHAEL PARKHURST vs. BRAD EVANS
Evans was once considered a safe bet to make the World Cup team, and he still very well could, but with Chandler and Parkhust both being better defenders and more versatile, Evans is far from a lock. Chandler is a better defender than Evans and better as an attacking fullback than Parkhurst. Evans and Parkhurst have the advantage of having actually played with the current group of defenders more recently and more often.
Ives Galarcep is an American soccer journalist with 17 years experience covering the beautiful game. Originally a newspaper reporter and ESPN.com soccer columnist, Ives made the full-time jump to the internet age by launching his own soccer news website, www.soccerbyives.net, in 2008. His Twitter account, @soccerbyives, has been selected to Sports Illustrated’s Twitter 100 (the top Twitter accounts in American sports) for three straight years.