The U.S. Men’s National Team returns to action this month with the latest edition of the annual January camp. This year’s version will be different though because it will consist of a USMNT camp that will run at the same time as an Under-23 camp, with the U-23 group prepares for Olympic qualifying in the spring.
The crop of U-23 eligible standouts in Major League Soccer is as deep and strong as there has ever been, and that will show in the January setup. Gregg Berhalter will call in his veteran nucleus, with players such as Aaron Long, Jordan Morris and Gyasi Zardes, but there will be far more Under-23 eligible players involved in this dual-camp setup.
Something to remember is that the year-long postponement of the Olympics to the Summer of 2021 lead the Olympic committee to increase the age eligibility threshold by a year, meaning this year’s Olympic qualifying group will effectively be a U-24 setup.
What could the January USMNT/U-23 camp look like? Here are the players you could see take part in the dual camps in Florida:
Projected USMNT/U-23 camp squad
*- U-23 Eligible
Sean Johnson, Matt Turner, Bill Hamid, *JT Marcinkowski, *David Ochoa, *C.J. Dos Santos
Johnson enters the camp as the most experienced one in the group, but Turner is coming off a breakout season and will be looking to climb the depth chart with a strong camp.
The U-23 pool features Marcinkowski, Ochoa and Benfica prospect Dos Santos, one of the few non-MLS players who took part in the December USMNT camp. Philadelphia Union’s Matt Freese and Austin FC’s Brady Scott are other options.
*Julian Araujo, *Kyle Duncan, Nick Lima, *Aaron Herrera, Aaron Long, Walker Zimmerman, *Henry Kessler, *Miles Robinson, *Mauricio Pineda, *James Sands, *Sam Vines, Chase Gasper, *Chris Gloster, *George Bello
With so many U-23 eligible fullbacks, there aren’t likely to be many older options, but if there are, then Lima would make sense given how well he has fared under Berhalter in the past. Gasper is a good option at left back, where the numbers are a bit thin.
Bryan Reynolds is reportedly set for a January transfer to Europe, otherwise he would have been listed here.
Mark McKenzie’s looming move to Europe keeps him off this list, but he is obviously one to include under normal circumstances. Aaron Long and Walker Zimmerman will look to continue their battle for the starting spot next to John Brooks on the full USMNT squad.
In terms of U-23 central defenders, Miles Robinson is coming off a disappointing season, but he remains a very good option and leading candidate to start for Jason Kreis’ group. Kessler had an outstanding rookie season and is a sharp-passing central defender capable of playing in either position in central defense, which gives him an edge over some of the other candidates.
Chris Gloster appears to be on the outs at PSV, so securing his services for the January camp might not be too difficult, and he is the type of prospect who could definitely develop into a key option for Kreis at left back.
Sebastian Lletget, Cristian Roldan, *Jackson Yueill, *Eryk Williamson, *Cole Bassett, *Keaton Parks, *Hassani Dotson, *Gianluca Busio, *Tanner Tessman, *Caden Clark
The Lletget-Roldan-Yueill trio is your best bet to start the USMNT friendly at the close of camp, but several of the U-23 prospects are good enough to push that trio for a spot.
Williamson was one of the true revelations in MLS in the U-23 age group, and is poised to be a top starting option for Kreis for Olympic qualifying, while Bassett is a player who quietly enjoyed an impressive breakout campaign for the Colorado Rapids as well.
Busio is an interesting prospect for Kreis given his history as an attacking midfielder, but more recent success playing in a deep-lying midfield role. Busio could be perfectly-suited to slot into the distributor role that Berhalter and Kreis crave at the base of the three-man midfield.
Dotson’s versatility helps his chances to make the Olympic qualifying setup. He can slot in as a right back or defensive midfielder, which is valuable considering how small the rosters are for Olympic qualifying.
Jordan Morris, Gyasi Zardes, Paul Arriola, Chris Mueller, *Jeremy Ebobisse, *Daryl Dike, *Jesus Ferreira, *Jonathan Lewis, *Ricardo Pepi
Might Berhalter call Jozy Altidore to take part in this camp, or will he let him have an extended rest ahead of what is shaping up to be a very busy year? We will go with resting Altidore, and going with Zardes, Ebobisse and Dike as the striker options in the group, along with U-23 prospect Pepi, who is a dual national Berhalter will want to spend some time with.
Ayo Akinola isn’t on the squad, and is instead taking part in a Canadian national team camp at the same time as he weighs his international options. Efrain Alvarez is another member of the December camp who isn’t likely to be called in again.
Mueller was one of the standouts in the December camp and friendly win against El Salvador, and he will have another chance to grab a claim to a starting winger role as he stacks up against Morris and Arriola.
What do you think of this group of players? Who are you excited to see be part of the January USMNT camp setup? Who didn’t make this list that you believe is worthy of a look?
Share your thoughts below.