United States v Costa Rica - FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier

Tracing history and the value of January United States national team camp


History says that it’s not too late to make a big break into the national team scene at the most important time possible, just ahead of a World Cup.

The dynamics are surely different in 2014; so many of the ways and means are different under Jurgen Klinsmann, who is never afraid to be unconventional in his methods or to push boundaries.

Still, there is surely still a chance that someone from this group of 26, those named Friday to the roster for January’s annual camp, can climb the order and find a way into prime position. Even if they get within striking distance of a roster spot, that puts some young man one ankle turn away from a World Cup roster spot … a truly golden opportunity for any young player, because a World Cup on the CV is a real game-changer.

Here are the late-comers who arrived into prominence previously via January camp (some in World Cup years, but not all):

  • 2002: You were a pretty good domestic soccer fan in 2001 if you knew Pablo Mastroeni, a tough and talented up-and-comer who had just completed a fantastic season with soon-to-expire Miami. He entered the January camp that year uncapped in World Cup qualifiers. But when Chris Armas was injured in the World Cup run-up, Mastroeni found himself a starter in Korea. A starter!
  • 2006: Jimmy Conrad got his first national team attention in the 2005 January camp. By that summer he was a Gold Cup contributor, and a year after that Conrad became a major part of the 2006 World Cup effort, making critical appearances against Ghana and Italy.
  • 2012: Two years ago Graham Zusi and Geoff Cameron were peripheral figures with the national team, just hopefuls, really. But both made starts in 1-0 wins against Venezuela and Panama to finish that camp. Zusi even contributed the game-winner in Panama City, and they have more or less been national team fixtures since then.
  • 2013: Matt Besler (pictured above) was uncapped at this time one year ago. Let that sink in. He was named to the January camp a year back, made an impression (clearly) and got his first cap on Jan. 29 of 2013 against Canada. By March he was a center back starter alongside Omar Gonzalez. Still is.

How can Man United qualify for last 16 of Champions League?

Wayne Rooney, Manchester United FC

Heading into the their final UEFA Champions League Group B game, Manchester United hold their destiny in their own hands, but any slip-up could mean it’s Europa League on Thursday nights for Louis Van Gaal‘s men.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]

The Red Devils would have advanced to the knockout stage with a victory over third-place PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday, but slumped to an ugly 0-0 draw instead.

[ MORE: Three things we learned from Man United 0-0 PSV ]

So, here’s all of the scenarios for the final matchday of the group stage, away to Wolfsburg, in which United would advance to the round of 16 advance:

  • A Man United win will see Man United finish top of Group B
  • A Man United draw, coupled with a PSV draw or loss (vs. CSKA Moscow), will see Man United finish second in Group B
  • A Man United draw, coupled with a PSV victory, will see Man United finish third in Group B
  • A Man United loss, coupled with a PSV loss, will see Man United finish second in Group B
  • A Man United loss by more than one goal, coupled with a PSV draw, would see Man United finish third in Group B
  • A Man United loss, coupled with a PSV win, would see Man United finish third in Group B

[ MORE: Champions League schedule

There are your scenarios for Man United as it’s pretty simple to break it down: Win, and they go through. Fail to win, and their fate is completely in the hands of PSV.

VIDEO: Can Leicester stun the world? Man United title favorites?

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The Foxes are top of the Premier League and are led by a surging Jamie Vardy but how long can they keep shocking the world?

With six tough games coming up between now and the start of 2016, Claudio Ranieri‘s men will be pushed to their limit but so far this season they’ve been sensational and Vardy has equaled Manchester United legend Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record of scoring in 10-straight PL games.

[ MORE: Full PST Extra archive ]

Can he make it 11 in a row on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via Live Extra) when United visit the King Power Stadium? As for the Red Devils, they sit in second place and are just one point behind the flying Foxes’. Louis Van Gaal‘s men have certainly flown under the radar so far and our churning out wins at an impressive rate.

Jenna Corrado and I discuss that and more in the latest edition of PST Extra. Click play on the video above to see our chat in full.

Men in Blazers podcast: The Leicester fairytale goes on

Men In Blazers - Sept. 22
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Rog and Davo revel in another chapter of the Leicester City fairytale, break down Liverpool’s shock dismantling of Manchester City and discuss Arsenal’s slip against West Brom.

Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.

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Pellegrini updates status of Joe Hart’s hamstring injury

Joe Hart, Manchester City FC
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Joe Hart was forced to leave Manchester City’s 1-0 defeat to Juventus in UEFA Champions League play on Wednesday due to a hamstring injury, which he seemed to incur while making a spectacular one-on-one kick-save late in the second half.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Man City manager Manuel Pellegrini confirmed after the game that Hart’s injury is indeed a hamstring issue, and went on to say that he would need further tests once the team arrives back in Manchester to determine the severity and how long, if at all, City and England’s no. 1 would be out of action.

Man City, currently third in the Premier League on 26 points, will host eighth-place Southampton at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).