When the 2010 World Cup came and went, neither Matt Besler, Graham Zusi or Chris Wondolowski had been anywhere near the radar of the U.S. national team, let alone considered players who would one day play in a World Cup. Four years later, all three wound up being part of the 2014 U.S. World Cup team.
Every World Cup cycle we see MLS players emerge out of relative obscurity to take on roles with the U.S. team and the league is loaded with young prospects who have yet to make their national team debuts, but who have the talent to quickly establish themselves as options for Jurgen Klinsmann.
Here is a Best XI of uncapped MLS players who are already eligible to play for the USA just might spend the next four years on the path to a place in the 2018 World Cup.
Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid have long been considered the future of the U.S. goalkeeping position, while Cody Cropper is another one to watch, but Irwin emerged from obscurity in 2013 to be one of the best goalkeepers in MLS. Only 25, Irwin has years to develop his game and vie for one of the three goalkeeper spots in Russia.
DeAndre Yedlin is the young right back everyone is talking about now, but Sarkodie is just three years older and also combines speed with good attacking qualities, as well as strong defensive instincts.
Want the next Besler? Look no further than Hedges, who has the size, technical ability and aerial prowess to become the best central defender in MLS. At 24, he should be in his prime in 2018.
The former No. 1 overall MLS Draft pick started his pro career as an MLS right back, but could wind up as a central defender or even defensive midfielder when it’s all said and done. He boasts a combination of speed and strength that makes him a potentially imposing figure in the national team setup.
After playing well at the Under-20 World Cup, and being called up for the U.S. national team’s January camp, O’Neill isn’t exactly an unknown commodity. That said, he is uncapped and could certainly play his way into the national team mix soon. The unanswered question at this point is what is his best position?
The 22-year-old defensive midfielder is already in his fourth full pro season as a starter, and with Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman set to ride off into the international sunset, Kitchen is a perfect candidate to step in and give Klinsmann some depth at defensive midfield.
If Klinsmann is looking for a bit more technical quality from deep in midfield, he could do much worse than Trapp, who is playing beyond his 20 years as a key figure for the Columbus Crew. Trapp was a U.S. Under-20 World Cup starter and should be one of the first young midfielders Klinsmann hands a debut cap to.
Looking for a box-to-box midfielder with the quality to set up teammates in the attacking third? Powers is the guy, and he might already have a cap if not for concussion issues keeping him out of last January’s national team camp.
The most exciting rookie in MLS is also an intriguing national team prospect with his technical quality, ability to cross the ball and pinpoint passes. He is also very quick, so adjusting to the international level should not be a problem for the 22-year old.
A change of scenery has done McInerney some good as he has started to thrive with the Montreal Impact after being traded from the Philadelphia Union. His smart runs, quick movement and nose for goal make him an ideal candidate to help fill out what should be a deep stable of forwards in the next World Cup cycle.
Boasting the size and speed to be a serious threat on the international level, Zardes has been spending a lot of time on the wings for the LA Galaxy despite really being a more central striker. Once he settles into his natural position, Zardes has the qualities to be a breakout goalscorer in MLS.