In the last calendar year alone, Jürgen Klinsmann called in over 60 different players for roster spots, as he tinkered with his final 23 for the USMNT. Granted, we knew players like Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, and Michael Bradley had unquestioned spots, but then again, so did Landon Donovan. Plenty of unknown youngsters — in the mold of John Anthony Brooks or Julian Green or DeAndre Yedlin — are affiliated with top clubs and academies in Europe and the Americas. Over the next four year cycle, they will have numerous opportunities to impress Jürgen: a U-20 World Cup, a Summer Olympics (U-23 except for three players), two Gold Cups, a potential Confederations Cup, and the 2016 Copa América Centenario. Besides Gedion Zelalem, an obvious choice, here are 10 kids who are cap-less but poised to challenge for spots with the USMNT in this next four-year cycle.
Joe Gyau, a left-winger at Borussia Dortmund, will be 25. Gyau recently signed at the Westfalenstadion from TSG Hoffenheim, going into the academy program that developed Mario Götze and Marco Reus. He's fallen off the radar recently, and competing in Germany's third-tier with Dortmund's reserves isn't the highest competition, but he's only 21. It should be noted that he is traveling with Dortmund's senior team during summer tune-ups this year, though he isn't expected to stick there. With Dortmund's professional staff behind him, his rawness will subside and complement his pace and athleticism. With a few years to develop, his skill set on the wings could be invaluable for the USA.
Junior Flores, a forward at Borussia Dortmund, will be 22. Though he is dual-eligible for El Salvador, Flores already declared allegiance to the United States a few years back. He signed his professional contract with the German team in March once he turned 18 but has been training at Dortmund's elite program in spurts for close to a year. Like Gyau, he plays exclusively with Borussia Dortmund II, but his presence there is exciting both Germans and Americans alike. Tab Ramos uses him as the U-20 team's playmaker, and should the USA qualify for the 2015 U-20 World Cup, he will feature prominently.
Andrija Novakovich, a forward at the English club Reading, will be 21. The Wisconsin native, one of the top college recruits in the nation, just graduated from high school and passed on college ball to join Reading. He'll probably be assigned to the U-18 squad, though he will also get opportunities to train with their U-21 and senior squads. Only 17, Novakovich was recently called up for a U-20 camp in advance of the World Cup qualification process and impressed American coaches with his strength and scoring ability. He still needs time, but his skills and upcoming opportunities for club and country make him necessary to watch.
Benji Joya, a midfielder for Santos Laguna, will be 23. Joya has struggled to get playing time at his parent club in Mexico, but he has impressed so far in a loan to the Chicago Fire. He typically plays box-to-box but has dribbling skills and pace that provide versatility. He has experience as a center-mid and as an in-cutting winger. There are concerns about his size and plan post-loan to get first-team action, but at 20 years old, he's not far from developing the game needed to succeed Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman.
Marc Pelosi, a midfielder at Liverpool, will be 24. Pelosi has actually been in Liverpool's youth system since 2011, but a long-term recovery from a broken leg sidelined him until April. He's healthy now, though, and hovering between the first XI and reserves for Liverpool's U-21 squad where the coaching staff remains intensely interested in his development. A left-footer noted for his versatility on the pitch, praised for his soccer intellect, and nurtured by a staff plucked from La Masia, Pelosi's presence in the US national team picture seems certain if he can completely return to his pre-injury form.
Harry Shipp, a forward for the Chicago Fire, will be 26. Shipp was an unknown in Chicago's academy until February, but his rookie season so far has been electric. The 22-year-old has six goals and four assists for an abysmal squad, which means that he'll shoulder more minutes and more responsibility as the season slogs on. He is smaller, listed at 5'9" and 145 pounds, but his field vision and passing ability cloaks that. Consistent minutes and continued development—even if he slows down from his current rate—will get him noticed by Jürgen.
Will Packwood, a defender for Birmingham City, will be 25. The Concord, Mass. native has been developing at City since he joined the youth academy at age 14. This winter he became a regular starter, earning February's Young Player of the Month honors and a year-long contract extension. Though he sat on the bench for his only call-up for the senior team so far, the 2-0 loss to Ukraine, the six-foot-three defender enters the next cycle as the hot item, especially if he can maintain his club starting role.
Paul Arriola, a forward for Club Tijuana, will be 23. Arriola has been accumulating minutes and goals for Tijuana over the last year in high-profile competitions like Liga MX and the CONCACAF Champions League. The last few months have been difficult for the native Californian, and he has seen his playing time both for Tijuana and the US U-20 squad drop, but he is nearing his 20th birthday and has proven success he can build off of. Klinsmann's constant search for goal-scorers will increase Arriola's stock.
Cody Cropper, a goalkeeper at Southampton, will be 24. Cropper signed at St. Mary's in 2012 and immediately went into their vaunted youth academy. The six-foot-four Minnesota native regularly started for Saints' U-21 squad. He's somewhere around fourth on their depth chart, but he still has years of promising development to go; Southampton just asked him to extend his contract. While now ineligible for the US U-20 squad, Cropper trained several times before the World Cup with the senior squad and will figure into discussions about the USMNT's second and third-string goalies once Tim Howard and Nick Rimando, both 35 today, retire from international duty.
Wil Trapp, a midfielder at Columbus Crew, will be 25. The way that Trapp has already arrived on the scene for club and country, he might be in discussion for the senior team as early as 2015's Gold Cup. The central mid started every minute at last year's U-20 World Cup, in the process earning US Soccer's 2013 Young Player of the Year Award, and has started in 13 of the Crew's 17 matches so far this season. His passing ability and field awareness remind many of Kyle Beckerman, and with this likely being Beckerman's last cycle, look for Trapp to spot-fill on the roster soon.