Olympic Soccer Players Get One Step Closer To 2014 FIFA World Cup
Players from the U.S. Men's National Soccer Team huddle up during the international friendly against Mexico at University of Phoenix Stadium on April 2, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona.
Several Olympians could make their way to Brazil this summer for the FIFA 2014 World Cup, an event that will take place two years before the next Olympic Games come to Rio de Janeiro.
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann announced the 30-man preliminary roster Monday, putting several Olympians in position to possibly play in soccer’s quadrennial championship.
Among those who made the cut are 2008 Olympians Jozy Altidore, Michael Parkhurst, Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu and Brad Guzan. The final 23-man roster needs to be submitted by June 2.
The 2008 teammates were not the only Americans with Olympic experience selected to the roster. Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley, both seeking to play in their fourth World Cup, played together in 2000 in Sydney when Team USA finished fourth, its all-time best. Goalkeeper Tim Howard, who was a member of the 2000 U.S. Olympic Team but did not play in Sydney, also was selected Monday and is hoping for a third trip to the World Cup.
The 30 players chosen will begin training Wednesday at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. The team will play three matches before heading to Brazil: against Azerbaijan May 27 in San Francisco; against Turkey June 1 in Harrison, New Jersey, and against Nigeria June 7 in Jacksonville, Florida.
The United States opens World Cup play June 16 against Ghana, the team which eliminated the Team USA in the 2010 World Cup, as well as Portugal (June 22) and Germany (June 26) in pool play. The 2014 edition of the World Cup will be played in Brazil, the same country which is set to play host to the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games.
“It means a lot,” Parkhurst was quoted on the Crew’s website. “Every soccer player would tell you that the ultimate goal is to play in the World Cup, and to be this close, and to have the opportunity to fight for a spot on the way to Brazil, and hopefully make this team — it would be the ultimate capper of a career."
Many observers consider Parkhurst to have a better than average chance of making the final roster because of his versatility and experience playing both central and wide defensive positions.
“Right now, I still don’t know if I’m competing for a left back or a right back spot with the national team, and obviously, I play central defender for Columbus,” Parkhurst said. “I think the versatility overall helps. I like to be out there playing different things; it keeps it interesting for me. I hope that that versatility — I can be either starter or a backup at multiple positions — will help me get on that plane.”
Of the 30 players named Monday, 15 play in Major League Soccer while the other 15 play for clubs in Europe or Mexico. Of the foreign-based players, four play in England and four in Germany.
Howard, who plays for Sunderland in England and is from North Brunswick, New Jersey, was the oldest player chosen at 35, while Tampa-native Bayern Munich midfielder Julian Green, who played his first game for Team USA a month ago, was the youngest at 18.
Donovan, 32, has the most experience with the national team, having played 156 times and scored 57 goals for Team USA. Klinsmann, however, said all of the players still must prove themselves.
“I’m not building my roster, we're not building the group based on the past,” said Klinsmann, a member of the 1990 World Cup-winning West German team. “We’re building that group based on what we experience. It's going to be about what people believe as of June 2.”
Of the 30, nine were members of the USA’s 2010 World Cup team in South Africa.
Among those who did not get selected were D.C. United forward Eddie Johnson, who scored the goal against Mexico last year that clinched the USA’s berth in the World Cup, and 2008 Olympians and California natives Sacha Kljestan and Michael Orozco.
U.S. Roster (club affiliation in parentheses; MLS unless noted)
Brad Guzan (Aston Villa, England), Tim Howard (Everton, England), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla, Mexico), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin, Germany), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City, England), Timmy Chandler (Nuernberg, Germany), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim, Germany), Michael Parkhurst (Columbus Crew), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC)
Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes, France), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana, Mexico), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg, Norway), Maurice Edu (Philadelphia Union), Julian Green (Bayern Munich, Germany), Jermaine Jones (Besiktas, Turkey), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Jozy Altidore (Sunderland, England), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna, Austria), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar, Netherlands), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)
Brian Trusdell is a freelance writer based in New York City. He covered six Olympic Games and three FIFA World Cups for The Associated Press from 1992 to 2008. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.