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Best Snapshots of the Weekend - Jan. 17-19 Review FOX Soccer's best images from the world of soccer /foxsoccer/world/lists/snapshots-of-the-week-january-17-19-images-players-clubs-managers-fans-011714 http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2014/01/18/011814-SOCCER-AJACCIO-VS-NICE-CAVALLI-PUEL-DC-PI_20140118175852584_136_102.JPG
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MLS 195 43 MLS stars preparing for 2014 World Cup 32016736 MLS stars preparing for the World Cup MLS+stars+preparing+for+the+World+Cup MLS

Several potential World Cup starters will spend the next few months preparing for Brazil by plying their trade in MLS. Three out of the four CONCACAF entrants – not you, Mexico – will rely on MLS to test some of their top players over the next few months. It is a big responsibility, but it is a brief MLS can fulfill given its exacting travel demands and its punishing physical requirements.

 

Read on to learn more about some of the stars who will lean on MLS over the next few months to work their way into top form heading into the World Cup.

 

-- Kyle McCarthy

Jamie Sabau - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2014/02/11/021114-SOCCER-MLS-players-to-world-cup-LN-G_20140211203048123_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2014/02/11/021114-SOCCER-MLS-players-to-world-cup-LN-G_20140211203048123_107_80.JPG
MLS 195 43 MLS stars preparing for 2014 World Cup 32016734 Michael Bradley, Toronto FC midfielder Michael+Bradley%2C+Toronto+FC+midfielder MLS

Bradley joined the increasing list of players returning to MLS when he moved from AS Roma to Toronto FC in January. The lucrative move guarantees him a regular place in the starting XI without hindering his contributions to the national side. There is no player in the pool as capable of asserting control over midfield and linking the play in possession. He must perform well in Brazil in order for the U.S. to advance from a difficult group.

Tom Szczerbowski - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2014/02/11/021114-MLS-players-head-to-world-cup-ahn-G10_20140211200700121_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2014/02/11/021114-MLS-players-head-to-world-cup-ahn-G10_20140211200700121_107_80.JPG
MLS 195 43 MLS stars preparing for 2014 World Cup 32015769 Clint Dempsey, Seattle Sounders forward Clint+Dempsey%2C+Seattle+Sounders+forward MLS

Dempsey swapped London for Seattle last summer to ensure regular first-team football. The career move – complete with a brief loan return to Fulham – hasn't proceeded quite according to plan as of yet, but Dempsey remains a critical piece of Jurgen Klinsmann's plans for the summer. The former Tottenham man offers the gumption and the ingenuity required to help the American devise alternative routes to goal in the summer.

Kevin C. Cox - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2014/02/11/021114-MLS-players-head-to-world-cup-ahn-G6_20140211200517112_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2014/02/11/021114-MLS-players-head-to-world-cup-ahn-G6_20140211200517112_107_80.JPG
MLS 195 43 MLS stars preparing for 2014 World Cup 32015768 Landon Donovan, LA Galaxy midfielder/forward Landon+Donovan%2C+LA+Galaxy+midfielder%2Fforward MLS

No player has scored more goals for the United States than the veteran attacking piece. Donovan took a brief sabbatical from the game prior to last season and returned refreshed and rejuvenated. He worked his way back into the U.S. national team pool and earned Jürgen Klinsmann's trust once more by participating in the CONCACAF Gold Cup last summer. Now he looks primed to play an important part for the Americans as they prepare for Brazil.

Jamie Sabau - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2014/02/11/021114-MLS-players-head-to-world-cup-ahn-G5_20140211200453111_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2014/02/11/021114-MLS-players-head-to-world-cup-ahn-G5_20140211200453111_107_80.JPG
MLS 195 43 MLS stars preparing for 2014 World Cup 32016730 Omar Gonzalez, LA Galaxy defender Omar+Gonzalez%2C+LA+Galaxy+defender MLS

Gonzalez spurned several offers from overseas to sign a contract extension with the Galaxy last summer. His evident physical gifts and his maturation in southern California explain all of the interest. The former Club América target will need to mind his passing and his positioning at the highest levels, but he possesses the tools to serve as a cornerstone of the American defense for some time to come.

Jamie Sabau - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2014/02/11/021114-MLS-players-head-to-world-cup-ahn-G4_20140211200417109_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2014/02/11/021114-MLS-players-head-to-world-cup-ahn-G4_20140211200417109_107_80.JPG
MLS 195 43 MLS stars preparing for 2014 World Cup 32016731 Matt Besler, Sporting Kansas City defender Matt+Besler%2C+Sporting+Kansas+City+defender MLS

The former MLS Defender of the Year established himself as a first-choice in central defense after a series of assured displays. U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann trusts this steady defender because he positions himself well and sidesteps any obvious mistakes. Besler – one of the few players in the pool best suited to the left side of the central defensive pairing – currently holds the inside track to a berth in the starting XI.

Kevin C. Cox - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2014/02/11/021114-MLS-players-head-to-world-cup-ahn-G7_20140211200545115_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2014/02/11/021114-MLS-players-head-to-world-cup-ahn-G7_20140211200545115_107_80.JPG
MLS 195 43 MLS stars preparing for 2014 World Cup 32016732 Graham Zusi, Sporting Kansas City midfielder Graham+Zusi%2C+Sporting+Kansas+City+midfielder MLS

Zusi emerged as a viable option for the World Cup with his performances over the past two years. His cultured approach in midfield dovetails neatly with his fellow technicians in that department. He faces a significant battle to make the squad and carve out playing time, but his domestic form with the MLS Cup holders and his exploits during the Hexagonal recommend him highly. Plus, they're probably pulling for him in Mexico, too.

Greg Fiume - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2014/02/11/021114-MLS-players-head-to-world-cup-ahn-G8_20140211200610116_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2014/02/11/021114-MLS-players-head-to-world-cup-ahn-G8_20140211200610116_107_80.JPG
MLS 195 43 MLS stars preparing for 2014 World Cup 32016729 Álvaro Saborío, Real Salt Lake forward %26Aacute%3Blvaro+Sabor%26iacute%3Bo%2C+Real+Salt+Lake+forward MLS

Costa Rica's most prolific active goalscorer will expect to lead the line for the Ticos this summer. Saborio floated in and out of the starting XI due to emerging alternatives and lingering fitness concerns, but his attributes – including deft target play and precise work in the penalty area – should ensure he sees some time on the field in Brazil.

JOHAN ORDONEZ/AFP - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2014/02/11/021114-MLS-players-head-to-world-cup-ahn-G3_20140211200348106_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2014/02/11/021114-MLS-players-head-to-world-cup-ahn-G3_20140211200348106_107_80.JPG
MLS 195 43 MLS stars preparing for 2014 World Cup 32015767 Victor Bernárdez, San Jose Earthquakes defender Victor+Bern%26aacute%3Brdez%2C+San+Jose+Earthquakes+defender MLS

Honduras will rely on this former Anderlecht defender to provide some much-needed steel along its back line. Bernardez isn't the most disciplined of players, but he remains defiant in his approach and strong in his tackles. He should benefit from the industrious work of former Sporting Kansas City midfielder Roger Espinoza in midfield as the Hondurans prepare to soak up ample pressure during group play.


 

Kevin C. Cox - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2014/02/11/021114-MLS-players-head-to-world-cup-ahn-G1_20140211200238103_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2014/02/11/021114-MLS-players-head-to-world-cup-ahn-G1_20140211200238103_107_80.JPG
MLS 195 43 MLS stars preparing for 2014 World Cup 32016733 Jerry Bengtson, New England Revolution forward Jerry+Bengtson%2C+New+England+Revolution+forward MLS

Bengtson's performances adhere to a classic club-versus-country dichotomy. He shines when partnered with former Houston striker Carlo Costly for Honduras, though he must try to remain in the good graces of the federation after a falling out last season. He struggles with the Revolution when asked to do things – operating as a lone forward, for instance – ill-suited to his game. The best bet for Honduras: make sure one of its Olympic heroes finds himself in the right positions to make an impact.
 

STR/AFP - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2014/02/11/021114-MLS-players-head-to-world-cup-ahn-G9_20140211200635118_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2014/02/11/021114-MLS-players-head-to-world-cup-ahn-G9_20140211200635118_107_80.JPG
MLS 195 43 MLS stars preparing for 2014 World Cup 32016728 Boniek Garcia, Houston Dynamo midfielder Boniek+Garcia%2C+Houston+Dynamo+midfielder MLS

This lively winger (right) tormented opposing defenses during the Hexagonal. His usual berth in the Honduran starting XI ensures he will receive a similar chance at the World Cup this summer. The key for this Dynamo star: floating into space and using the freedom to run one-versus-one at opposing fullbacks.

Joel Auerbach - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2014/02/11/021114-MLS-players-head-to-world-cup-ahn-G2_20140211200332105_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2014/02/11/021114-MLS-players-head-to-world-cup-ahn-G2_20140211200332105_107_80.JPG
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