Listening to the American Outlaws supporters group at World Cup qualifiers singing "We are going to Brazil," it's difficult to disagree, even if it isn't yet official.
The United States men's national soccer team leads the final round of CONCACAF qualifying with four games to play, and Sunday's Gold Cup final victory at Soldier Field shows the Americans have a world of momentum going into the next qualifier, Sept. 6 at Costa Rica. The United States could clinch a berth in June's World Cup as early as Sept. 10 against Mexico in Columbus.
So let's have some fun and start speculating about who might be among the 23 players coach Jurgen Klinsmann picks to go to Brazil in 316 days (but who's counting?).
Ÿ Goalkeepers (3): Brad Guzan, Tim Howard, Sean Johnson.
Howard and Guzan are obvious choices. Howard has been the starter for years, and Guzan, from southwest suburban New Lenox, has been his backup.
The third goalkeeper spot usually goes to a young, up-and-coming player. Because he's not likely to see any action in the World Cup, you might as well pick someone who can use the experience for the next couple of World Cup cycles. That rules out Gold Cup starter Nick Rimando, 34. Johnson, the Chicago Fire, starter since his rookie season, seems to have the edge over D.C. United's Bill Hamid.
Ÿ Defenders (8): DaMarcus Beasley, Matt Besler, Steve Cherundolo, Brad Evans, Omar Gonzalez, Clarence Goodson, Fabian Johnson, Oguchi Onyewu.
Besler, Goodson and Gonzalez seem to be the top three for the two starting center back spots. The only question is if Onyewu, 31, has enough left in the tank to contribute or if Michael Orozco might get the spot.
Beasley and Johnson seem to have Klinsmann's confidence at left back, with either versatile enough to move up to left midfielder. Edgar Castillo just misses out.
The Rockford-born Cherundolo is 34 and coming off an injury, but if he's healthy the Hannover man seems to still be fit enough to get the start at the right back spot he's owned the last couple of World Cup cycles. Brad Evans seems to have the edge on Michael Parkhurst and Timmy Chandler to back up Cherundolo.
Ÿ Midfielders (8): Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, Mix Diskerud, Landon Donovan, Maurice Edu, Jermaine Jones, Brek Shea, Graham Zusi.
This is the hardest position to figure, with talented players like Kyle Beckerman, Alejandro Bedoya, Joe Corona, Brad Davis, Joshua Gatt, Sacha Kljestan, Jose Torres and Danny Williams left out -- for now.
Bradley and Jones seem to be the first-choice midfielders in the middle, and Cameron impressed this spring when Jones suffered a concussion. Cameron is versatile enough to play anywhere on the back line also.
Diskerud replaces Stuart Holden, who suffered a torn ACL Sunday at Soldier Field and seems doubtful to be ready to play at the international level by June.
Donovan won the Golden Ball as the best player at the Gold Cup, and he probably has earned a starting spot on the wings opposite Zusi.
Edu has experience and could play center back, so he might get the call, unless Klinsmann feels he needs another winger. Shea is young, big, strong and fast. If he gets regular playing time at Stoke City this winter, it's hard to think Klinsmann wouldn't want those attributes at the ready in Brazil.
Ÿ Forwards (4): Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Herculez Gomez, Eddie Johnson,
Altidore and Dempsey seem locks to start up top, and Johnson has the size, speed and experience that would make it hard to leave him home.
Gomez, if healthy and in form, beats out the likes of Chris Wondolowski and Terrence Boyd but might be hard-pressed to see much playing time.
The only certainty is that Klinsmann should have some tough decisions to make. Injuries will happen. Players not getting regular time with their clubs the next few months might fall out of favor. For now, though, it's fun to think about as the days count down.
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