The 2014 World Cup was an inspiring one for a nation just now getting into the soccer spotlight. The USMNT was drawn into the Group of Death, made it through, and faced up incredibly well against a world-class Belgian squad. Tim Howard anchored the team from goal, keeping this country in every single game. Clint Dempsey was a rock at the front as well.
But now that the USMNT has been eliminated, it’s never to early to start looking to what they can do next time.
With an event that happens every four years, it’s established that some players will not be returning for the next competition. Tim Howard will be 39 years old in 2018. In soccer years, that’s incredibly elderly, but given that he’s a goalie, and perhaps one of the best we’ve ever seen, there’s always a chance that he’ll be back for another.
Clint Dempsey will be 35, and while Miroslav Klose of Germany (36) proved that it can be done, Klose is a rare breed, the best striker in German history in fact. So while Dempsey will undoubtedly be back, starting every match will be a long shot, if he starts at all.
But enough about who may not be back, let’s look at who will be hitting their prime.
Obviously the first name to stand out is Julian Green, who’s first touch in the 2014 World Cup was a masterful goal against Belgium. Green will be 23 and he’ll have been playing in a Bayern Munich system that has some of the best players in the world. Green could be incredibly special; his pace and creative mind will be the catalyst of a potentially potent USMNT midfield.
Then there’s Gedion Zelalem, who is currently in the process of getting his citizenship. Zelalem is coming out of the best system in the world at Arsenal and he’ll be 21 years old, likely on the verge of breaking into the Arsenal squad. He’s much similar to Green and the two should mesh together beautifully.
Then there’s DeAndre Yedlin and Fabian Johnson, both wing backs with pace that few can rival. We saw the potential of both in the 2014 World Cup, and both are young, so add four years of experience to both and the result could be fantastic.
Michael Bradley will be keen to fix his image after a very lackluster 2014 showing, but even if he doesn’t shape up, we still have the rising Mix Diskerud and the inspiring youngsters of Green and Zelalem to compete with.
And then there’s Jozy Altidore and Aron Johannsson. Both will be a few years shy of 30 and peaking in their striking careers, fully aware that 2018 could be their last World Cup. Both have a world of talent, and both will be playing for it all.
So while names like Jermaine Jones, Kyle Beckerman, Howard and Dempsey may not be as effective as their 2014 selves, the additions of Zelalem, Green, Diskerud and Yedlin to the starting lineups gives the U.S. plenty to look forward to.
The only problem is we have to wait four years to see it.