The next set of international games is still over two weeks away with the United States Men’s National Team set to face Antigua and Barbuda and Guatemala in its final two matches of group play in CONCACAF qualifying.
In the interlude, let’s have a little fun and see who might be in the first XI for the USMNT at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
We’ll go with a 3-5-2.
Several clubs in Italy, as well the Italian national team and Manchester City have adopted, or at least toyed with, a three-back formation over the past year.
The formation is also popular in South America.
Between now and 2018, expect it to re-emerge on the world scene as the most popular formation.
By 2018, the Chicago Fire youngster will be 29 years old and will have probably made the jump across the pond.
Other serious contenders for the job could be Bill Hamid, U.S. U-20 goalkeeper Cody Cropper or even a 34-year-old Brad Guzan.
Brad Friedel is still getting the job done in the best league in the world at 41, so who knows if a then 39-year-old Tim Howard will still be in the mix.
Johnson, at the ripe age of 23, already looks to have locked down the U.S. left-back spot for the foreseeable future. Playing as a wing-back with three central defenders behind him would also allow Johnson to push further up the field to add to the U.S. attack.
The other big candidates here could be Eric Lichaj, who can play on either the left or right side of the field, and Brek Shea.
Gonzalez, who has made a remarkable comeback from his ACL injury in January, will be 29 years old by the time the World Cup in Russia kicks off. By that point, Gonzalez will have most likely secured a move to a top European team and have several years of top-notch club and international experience under his belt.
Filling in the Carlos Bocanegra iron-man role will be then 32-year-old Geoff Cameron. Perhaps Cameron won’t still be mixing it up with the best of the best in the EPL at 32, but the experience harnessed from his years in England will still make him one of the U.S.’ best backs.
Ok, this is a bit of a cowardly choice, but to be honest, there are far too many candidates for this last spot. And, while all of them scream potential, none of them have yet proven their ability consistently, or at a high enough level.
Among the competitors could be Alfredo Morales, George John, Amobi Okugo, John Anthony Brooks, Austin Berry, Matt Hedges, Andrew Wenger or Will Packwood.
The speedy right sided midfielder/defender will be 26 by the time World Cup 2018 gets started and, by then, will have most likely spring boarded his success at Molde into a move to a top European side.
His pace and attacking prowess will make him a duel threat.
Joseph Gyau, a 20 year old winger for Hoffenheim, is also a potentially interesting choice.
Most USMNT fans initial reaction might be to assume Bradley will be too old come 2018 because he has been a fixture of the USMNT for so long.
However, Bradley will only be 30 years old by the 2018 World Cup and with his combination of fitness, passing range and experience gleaned from several years playing in Italy’s Serie A, he will still be one of the U.S.’ top players.
Williams, who proved his worth to the USMNT after finally being given a chance as a holding midfielder, will be an experienced Bundesliga veteran by 2018 at the age of 29.
Conor O’Brien, who has experienced a strong run of form for Sonderjyske in the Danish league, could also be a darkhorse candidate.
This may be a brave choice - it may also be a foolish one.
Adu’s career has been filled with so many ups and downs, it is not really a smart idea to try and accurately predict where he will end up next.
He has proven with the USMNT that he can provide playmaking skills and vision that few in the player pool currently possess, but he has never been able to lock down a consistent starting spot for any length of time with any of his eight clubs.
In terms of the U.S. player pool, there is also plenty of depth for future attacking midfielder choices. Joe Corona, Marc Pelosi, Luis Silva, Nick DeLeon, Mix Diskerud and Luis Gil all have the combination of youth and talent to make them exciting prospects.
The much-maligned Altidore will be 28 years old by the 2018 World Cup and hopefully will have translated his success in the Eredivisie into a move to France, or back to England or Spain by then.
The same is true of Boyd, who is still only 21 years old and gaining much needed experience in Austria. If he continues to play well, a move back to the Bundesliga is probably not far off.
The combination of pace and power that a Boyd/Altidore combination could provide, especially if it is measured with a few more years of experience and improvement at the highest levels in Europe, would be deadly.
Other interesting forward candidates for 2018 include Andrew Wooten, Villyan Bijev, Juan Agudelo and Omar Salgado.
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