US football writer Matthew Tomaszewicz picks out the key men in Jurgen Klinsmann's provisional squad and assesses their chances of getting past Germany, Portugal and Ghana in group G.
Who's in (30-man provisional squad)
Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Nurnberg), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Michael Parkhurst (Columbus Crew), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC)
Custodians: Aston Villa's Brad Guzan, along with Everton's Tim Howard, ensure Premier League quality in goals
Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael
Bradley (Toronto FC), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Brad Davis (Houston
Dynamo), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Maurice Edu (Philadelphia Union),
Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Jermaine Jones (Besiktas), Graham Zusi
(Sporting Kansas City)
Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Clint Dempsey
(Seattle Sounders), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Aron Johannsson (AZ
Alkmaar), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)
Who misses out?
Without a doubt, the two biggest exclusions for the United States were Eddie Johnson and Oguchi Onyewu. The former, Johnson, was a frequent call-in during qualifying and scored some big goals, including the goal that ultimately won the group for the States.
Onyewu was a less debateable exclusion in the eyes of most. That said, the Sheffield United centre-back was playing his best soccer towards the end of the 2014 campaign and brought two qualities that no US centre-back has: World Cup experience and the ability to dominate in the air.
Notable omission: Eddie Johnson played a large role in US's qualification for the Cup but isn't going to BrazilEddie Johnson
Biggest selection headline
Klinsmann called no less than six players who can man the troubling right-back position. Most surprising of these calls were Chandler - a dual German-American national - and youngster Yedlin.Â
Chander's qualifying run saga was nothing short of a Brazil telenovela. He waffled on commitment to the US and was cap-tied in February 2013 qualifier against Honduras where he put on nothing short of an awful defensive display. Since that match - one where Chandler's true commitment was questioned - Chandler hadnâ€™t received another call until now.
Commitment: Timmy Chandler's devotion to the American cause has been questioned during the campaignTimmy Chandler
By all accounts, Seattle's 20-year-old
Yedlin is a star in the making. He's got the attributes. Speed and some
slick handles. But Yedlin - as most his age do - suffers from
inexperience that leads to some breakdowns in team defense. Many are
unsure why he was called at this juncture.
It's hard to truly project one American whose game will take flight at the World Cup. If you're laying odds in Vegas, then your best bet is Icelandic convert Johannsson. The AZ Alkmaar frontman harkens comparisons to German's Thomas Muller in his uncanny off-ball movement. Like Muller, Johannsson is a modern day striker, sweeping across the pitch to pockets of space to provide a check-to pass or to slip a channel and get on the end of a chance.
Both Ghana and Portugal will likely see Johannsson's movement yield at least one quality chance per match.
X-factor: AZ Alkmaar striker Aron Johannsson could be a wildcard in attack for the North AmericansJohannsson
This is tough to say for the US. For 12 years and three World Cups that man's name has been the notorious Donovan. However, post-2010 Donovan's focus has waxed and waned and former Fulham and Spurs's false nine Dempsey has led the charge.Â
Dempsey himself recently went through a
bout of poor form and his up-top accomplice Altidore certainly has his
own questions after a dreadful year at Sunderland.Â
safe money is on Dempsey, but taking a risk on Johansson or perhaps
midfield maestro Bradley good see a good return on investment too.
Threat: Former Fulham and Spurs striker Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan have the pressure on up front
The US's attack has been anything, but creative over the past qualifying campaign. Whereas Klinsmann's predecessor Bob Bradley drove a counterattacking style that saw his 2010 team score the most goals in World Cup qualifying history, Klinsmann has opted for a more pragmatic, defensive and dare it be said German approach to building the team.
Chance creation has suffered at the hands of maintaining defensive discipline. For this season, centre midfielder Bradley has been relied on to be both the conduit of moving the ball out of the back, but also arcing deep passes up the field to on-rushing wingers to create chances.
Lynchpin: Toronto midfielder Michael Bradley falls into the calm creative and hard man roles for his countryMichael Bradley
The hatchet man
The argument can be made here for Bradley as well as defensive henchman. Bradley's positioning is often flawless and his understanding of the game snuffs out chances before emergency defending is necessary.
Another selection here is Sporting KC midfielder Zusi. He is neither physically imposing nor cleans house with his tackles, but Zusi is indefatigable in both tracking back and providing help defence on the right.Â
He's the US James Milner.
The verdict: Does this squad have what it takes to go all the way?
It's hard to say this and the gaffer himself admitted as much in an interview earlier this year. The US always comes with big effort and never-say-die attitude, but the backline is pock-holed with question marks and, in a lesser covered story, Klinsmann recently relieved his main tactician and confidante Martin Vasquez of his duties.
The US has the ability to get out of the group, beyond that is gravy.
Blueprint: Jurgen Klinsmann has injected his German style into the States ahead of their Brazil tilt