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Predicting the U.S. World Cup Roster

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Predicting the U.S. World Cup Roster

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

CONCACAF World Cup qualifying is complete, and the U.S. Men’s National Team has secured their place in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The U.S. topped the group in the final round of qualifying, and they head into the World Cup with higher hopes (and expectations) than ever before.

Jurgen Klinsmann has done a magnificent job of shaping and developing this squad to play the type of soccer he envisioned, and the U.S. has looked like a more technical, skilled attacking team than at any time in recent memory.

While the World Cup is still 9 months away, it is never too early to start thinking about what the final 23 man roster for the tournament will look like. After all, that is the only job that Klinsmann and his staff will be worried during that time frame.

Given the amount of time before the World Cup, there is still a lot that could change. Players could improve or decline in form, and injuries will surely have their say, both in the form of players getting hurt and injured players returning to health.

Klinsmann raised a few eyebrows the other day when he said that Clint Dempsey’s spot on the team is not assured, but he meant that as a message for everyone. Klinsmann will not take players just because they are big names, and he will only take the 23 men he believes give the U.S. the best chance to be successful.

While much of the starting lineup is a safe bet, there will be numerous battles for bench spots as club seasons and international friendlies unfold. These are the most likely candidates as things stand now, and they will hope to earn their spots in Brazil.

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David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Starter: Tim Howard

Reserves: Brad Guzan, Nick Rimando

There is absolutely zero suspense at the goalkeeper position, barring injury. Howard will be the team’s No. 1, and he is probably going to be the first name that Klinsmann writes down. Howard has been a star for the national team for years, and nothing figures to change between now and June.

Guzan is yet again the hard luck backup, but he has shown on many occasions to be an excellent fill in option. Rimando may face a challenge from young keepers Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid, but he is by far the favorite to earn the No. 3 job.

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Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Starters: Brad Evans, Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler, DaMarcus Beasley

Reserves: Geoff Cameron, Clarence Goodson, Edgar Castillo

Gonzalez and Besler have both progressed nicely, and they appear to be the clear leading candidates to start at center back for the U.S. Beasley has done a great job transitioning to left back, and he should be the easy first choice.

Things are less settled at right back, where Evans appears to have a slight edge on Cameron and Michael Parkhurst. Steve Cherundolo could factor in if he can get healthy, but it would be difficult for him to impress Klinsmann in such a short period of time

Castillo should make the team due to his ability to press forward, and Goodson and Cameron should both make the team as well, with Cameron’s versatility being a huge asset. Michael Orozco or John Brooks could make an impact, but the young players will need to be very impressive to unseat Goodson.

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Defensive Midfielders

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Starters: Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones

Reserves: Kyle Beckerman, Sacha Kljestan

Make no mistake, Bradley is both the U.S.’s best and most important player. Any success they are to have will depend hugely on his ability to control the midfield, settle the team and initiate the attack. Jones is a perfect partner given his enforcer skills, and he also has the ability to go forward.

Beckerman is a classic No. 6 holding midfielder who will provide a stabilizing defensive force if needed. Kljestan is a well-rounded player who Klinsmann likes, but he will be in a battle for one of the last roster spots.

A healthy Stuart Holden could factor in, but sadly that is highly unlikely. Danny Williams has been rumored to make a return to the national team, but Kljestan remains the favorite for this last spot.

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Attacking Midfielders

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Starters: Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Fabian Johnson

Reserves: Mix Diskerud, Graham Zusi, Alejandro Bedoya

Regardless of what Klinsmann has said recently, there is about a 99.9% chance that Dempsey will be starting and wearing the captain’s armband when the U.S. opens play in Brazil. It is equally likely that he will be flanked by Donovan on the right and Johnson on the left, giving the U.S. perhaps the most creative and talented group of attackers in their history.

No reserve is a safer bet to make the team than Diskerud, who is versatile, creative and a Klinsmann favorite. He can spell any of the five midfielders, and he will likely be the first man off the bench.

Zusi and Bedoya will be in a close battle with Brek Shea, Brad Davis, Joe Corona and Jose Torres, but Zusi and Bedoya have been in the best form for the national team. If Shea can ever get playing time at Stoke City he would be by far the most serious threat, but that has yet to happen.

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Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Starter: Jozy Altidore

Reserves: Aron Johannsson, Eddie Johnson

The U.S. has finally found a true No. 9 to replace Brian McBride, and that man is Altidore. Altidore has been in outstanding form with the national team, and he is the best finisher the U.S. has had in years. Dempsey and Donovan will give him plenty of service, and Altidore could be a breakout star in Brazil.

Johannson has made an immediate impact upon joining the U.S. team, scoring the game winning goal against Panama in the USA’s final qualification match. Johnson also figures to make the team, as he has been in very good form as well, and he possess the versatility to play in the midfield.

Hercules Gomez, Chris Wondolowski and Terrence Boyd are among the names that will try to steal a spot from Johannsson and Johnson, but they all face a major uphill battle.

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