Saturday, February 24, 2024
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USMNT’s January camp is underway, but do participants ever move on to meaningful roles?

On Saturday, the United States men’s national team will kick off their 2024 soccer calendar by facing Slovenia as part of the January camp. Led by head coach Gregg Berhalter, the camp is a time to take a look at domestic players due to it taking place outside of a standard FIFA window so Europe-based players are rarely included. It’s a common time for players to get their first caps with the USMNT while also having a chance to experience what a national team camp is like. 

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Since 2018, nine players from these camps made the 2022 World Cup roster. Narrowing that down, Matt Turner and Walker Zimmerman were the duo to become starters in Qatar. The pipeline from Major League Soccer to the World Cup is a well worn one as Tyler Adams, Brenden Aaronson, and Tim Ream also used January camps to raise their USMNT stock. All of them have one thing in common in that their careers began with domestic sides allowing the ability to come to these camps but with the USMNT gaining a global reach that includes the conversion of dual nationals like Sergino Dest, Yunus Musah, and Folarin Balogun, does January camp still have the same importance that it used to?

Last year, the USMNT faced Serbia with Zimmerman captaining the side. Members of that team such as Cade Cowell, Alex Zendejas, Brandon Vazquez, Kellyn Acosta, Aidan Morris, Jesus Ferreira, and John Tolkin have been around national team camps but most have seen their roles reduced since the World Cup due to the growing quality of the starting XI. 

While Berhalter has tough lineup decisions to make when everyone is healthy, going further back it’s still a similar story of most January camp inclusions being fringe members of the USMNT at best. Brenden Aaronson has broken through to be a consistent member of rosters and Mark McKenzie has a chance to do the same but people like Sam Vines, Djordje Mihailovic and Reggie Cannon have a lot to do to make more than a Gold Cup roster.

This isn’t a bad thing as it does mean that Berhalter gets a good chance to build out his rosters for other tournaments which is especially important this year with the Olympics, Copa America and Nations League this year. During this camp, it’s almost more important for assistant coach Marko Mitrovic to get a chance to look at the squad than it is for Berhalter. Mitrovic will be leading the U-23’s to the Olympics in Paris this summer and on this roster 13 of the 25 players are age-eligible.

Seeing how they perform will help Varas get a look at who is going to Paris while Berhalter can keep an eye out for any star performances from players who could make the Copa America roster like Miles Robinson, James Sands, Morris, Tolkin, and Diego Luna.

Roster

GOALKEEPERS (3): Drake Callender (Inter Miami; 0/0), Roman Celentano (FC Cincinnati; 0/0), Patrick Schulte (Columbus Crew; 0/0)

DEFENDERS (10): Nathan Harriel (Philadelphia Union; 0/0), DeJuan Jones (New England Revolution; 7/0), Shaq Moore (Nashville SC; 17/1), Ian Murphy (FC Cincinnati; 0/0), Jackson Ragen (Seattle Sounders; 0/0), Miles Robinson (FC Cincinnati; 27/3), James Sands (New York City FC; 13/0), Nkosi Tafari (FC Dallas; 0/0), John Tolkin (New York Red Bulls; 3/0), Caleb Wiley (Atlanta United; 1/0)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Joshua Atencio (Seattle Sounders; 0/0), Aziel Jackson (St. Louis City; 0/0), Jack McGlynn (Philadelphia Union; 0/0), Aidan Morris (Columbus Crew; 4/0), Timmy Tillman (LAFC; 0/0), Sean Zawadzki (Columbus Crew; 0/0)

FORWARDS (6): Esmir Bajraktarevic (New England Revolution; 0/0), Bernard Kamungo (FC Dallas; 0/0), Diego Luna (Real Salt Lake; 0/0), Duncan McGuire (Orlando City; 0/0), Brian White (Vancouver Whitecaps/CAN; 0/0)

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