The start of a new World Cup cycle is an ideal time to start bringing new players into any national team. For the United States' first game after coming home from Brazil, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has done just that.
Of the 22 men in Klinsmann's squad to face the Czech Republic next Tuesday in Prague (2:00 p.m., NBCSN and Unimás), 10 are under the age of 24 and six have never been capped. You'll see some familiar faces, including Jozy Altidore and Mix Diskerud, but you'll also see quite a few players you might never have heard of before.
"We are curious about the next generation of players breaking in," Klinsmann said in a statement issued by the U.S. Soccer Federation after Thursday's announcement. "It is also very vital towards Russia 2018 that we already communicate now, four years away, that there is a path for you laid out, but you as a player decide at the end of the day whether you make that path or not."
Among the most notable new faces is 20-year-old forward Jordan Morris, who's currently a rising sophomore at Stanford University. Yes, you read that right: Klinsmann has called in a college soccer player. It is not lost on those who follow the American soccer development scene that Klinsmann is not a fan of college soccer. Even many of those who don't might have read his criticisms of the system in the past.
But Morris is quite a talent. He was named the 2012-13 U.S. Soccer Development Academy Player of the Year for the U-17/18 age group, and has featured often for U.S. under-23 and under-20 teams. Now the Seattle Sounders academy product is the first college player to be summoned to the senior national team since current Philadelphia Union technical director Chris Albright 15 years ago.
The last college player to make it on to the field for the senior national team was Ante Razov in 1995.
“We have watched Jordan through our youth national teams and in the [U.S. Soccer] Development Academy for the last couple of years, and he is a very promising player," Klinsmann said. "We saw him during our two weeks at Stanford for the World Cup preparation camp, and also from his play with U-23 team in the Bahamas, and we felt like this was a good opportunity to introduce him to the senior team.”
The other five players on the squad who could make their senior national team debuts next week are 21-year-old Southampton goalkeeper Cody Cropper; 18-year-old Fulham midfielder Emerson Hyndman; 21-year-old Borussia Dortmund reserve forward Joe Gyau; 18-year-old FC Utrecht forward Rubio Rubin; and 21-year-old 1860 Munich forward Bobby Wood.
“It’s an especially good opportunity for us to look at the younger players based in Europe, which we don’t get to do very often because of their schedules," Klinsmann said. "We can’t bring them into the January camp where we get to work with a lot of the up and coming talent, so for players like Joe Gyau, Emerson Hyndman, Rubio Rubin and Bobby Wood, it’s a great chance for them to experience our environment, and for us we get to know these guys better and see what they can do.”
Here is the full roster for the Czech Republic game. In addition to each player's name and club affiliation, I have included his age, to give you a further sense of the overarching theme.
Goalkeepers (3): Cody Cropper (21, Southampton/England); Brad Guzan (29, Aston Villa/England); Nick Rimando (35, Real Salt Lake/MLS)
Defenders (7): John Brooks (21, Hertha Berlin/Germany); Geoff Cameron (29, Stoke City/England); Timothy Chandler (24, Eintracht Frankfurt/Germany); Greg Garza (23, Club Tijuana/Mexico); Fabian Johnson (26, Borussia Mönchengladbach/Germany); Michael Orozco (28, Puebla/Mexico); Tim Ream (26, Bolton Wanderers/England)
Midfielders (7): Alejandro Bedoya (27, Nantes/France); Joe Corona (24, Club Tijuana/Mexico); Mix Diskerud (23, Rosenborg/Norway); Julian Green (19, Bayern Munich/Germany); Emerson Hyndman (18, Fulham/England); Alfredo Morales (24, FC Ingolstadt/Germany); Brek Shea (24, Stoke City/England)
Forwards (5): Jozy Altidore (24, Sunderland/England), Joe Gyau (21, Borussia Dortmund II/Germany), Jordan Morris (Stanford University/NCAA), Rubio Rubin (18, FC Utrecht/Netherlands), Bobby Wood (21, 1860 Munich/Germany)