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

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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.