FOX Soccer Exclusive
Time for U.S. Soccer to think about 2014
Four years may not seem like a long time, but for a national soccer team, it is the equivalent of a generation.
Even as young as the U.S. national team was in this World Cup, the next American World Cup team promises to look much different. We aren’t seeing the retirement of legendary players like we did in 2006, when Brian McBride, Claudio Reyna and Eddie Pope signaled their departures, but there still promises to be a good amount of turnover, particularly in the defense.
While the defense will be in a state of flux, the United States does boast a bevy of young midfielders who should give the national team a variety of good options in 2014.
The state of the U.S. talent pool does have some promising signs, with Major League Soccer starting to produce young talent through its academy ranks, and more Americans making their way to European clubs at an early age.
It remains unclear who the head coach will be come 2014, but whoever that is, he will have a strong stable of midfielders to build around, as well as goalkeeper Tim Howard, who doesn't show any signs of slowing down.
Who will stay, and who will go? Here is a closer look at the current team, which of the 23 are likely to return, and who some of the prospects are who might play a part with the United States in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Jozy Altidore enjoyed a good World Cup, his lack of goals notwithstanding, and as a 20-year old he should be a key figure for the national team for years to come.
The question that remains is who will be his strike partner? Edson Buddle and Herculez Gomez will both be too old for 2014, while Findley will be 28 in 2014, but he still has to work on his finishing and would benefit from a move to Europe.
One player who will have to be considered a serious candidate for 2014 is Charlie Davies, who fell just short in his bid to make this year’s World Cup team after being seriously injured in a deadly car accident last October. If he can regain his pre-accident form, he should be part of the picture.
There are plenty of potential candidates, but most are young or very early in their professional careers. Chris Pontius is one to watch in MLS, while Marcus Tracy and Mike Grella are two American strikers embarking on promising careers in Europe.
Another player to keep an eye on is Yura Movsisyan. The Azerbaijan-born striker and former Real Salt Lake standout is in the process of securing his American citizenship and enjoyed a strong first season in Europe with Danish club Randers. He’s just 22, and could become a national team player once he receives his citizenship.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to think that Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey will still be capable of starting for the United States in 2014, let alone making the team. Michael Bradley should be in his prime, and should be the team’s most influential midfielder.
There is plenty of reason for optimism in midfield, with Maurice Edu, Benny Feilhaber, Stuart Holden and Jose Francisco Torres all set to be younger than 30 at the next World Cup.
If that sounds like all the 2010 midfielders, it almost is. The one not on the list is DaMarcus Beasley, who made just one brief appearance in this World Cup. He’s 28, but given the unsettled state of his career it is tough to project Beasley on the 2014 team.
The depth doesn’t end there. Sacha Kljestan came close to making the 2010 team and just completed a move to Anderlecht, while winger Alejandro Bedoya is also enjoying success in Sweden and has a bright future. There are also young prospects deeper in the pipeline, such as Mikkel Diskerud, Jared Jeffrey and Sebastian Lletget.
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The biggest turnover between the 2010 and 2014 teams will be in defense, where the three defenders who played every minutes of this World Cup were all 30 or older. Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo and Jay DeMerit were all key contributors during the last World Cup cycle, but all four are likely to be done by 2014.
Oguchi Onyewu is 28, and stands a good chance of being a national team contributor come 2014, while Jonathan Bornstein’s impressive World Cup performances bode well for him establishing as a regular left back in four years (when he’ll be 29). Jonathan Spector didn’t play in the World Cup, but he’s 24 and should be in the mix at right back come 2014.
There are some promising center back young prospects in the U.S. ranks, such as MLS defenders Omar Gonzalez, Tim Ream, Ike Opara and Kevin Alston, as well as European-based Americans Gale Agbossoumonde and Eric Lichaj. You also have Chad Marshall and Heath Pearce, who both were in the mix for the 2010 squad.
Tim Howard was steady and reliable throughout the World Cup, and he should still be the go-to netminder in 2014 even though he will be 35.
Brad Guzan has long been considered the heir-apparent to Howard, but he still needs to find consistent playing time before he can be a serious contender to the throne.
Marcus Hahnemann was the oldest member of the 2010 team at 38, so he won't be playing a part on the 2014 team.
The once-loaded stable of American goalkeepers is drying up quickly, with few established prospects currently in the pipeline. One young goalkeeper to keep an eye on is D.C. United prospect Bill Hamid, who might be a better 2018 prospect than 2014 prospect.
Ives Galarcep is a senior writer for FoxSoccer.com covering the U.S. national team and Major League Soccer.