With the Confederations Cup just a week away, there's a lot of chatter going around about the U.S. Men's National Team.
A 23-man squad is already in South Africa, preparing for that tournament few consider worthwhile. And while there will be talking points to glean from going up against the likes of Italy, Brazil, and Egypt, another tournament awaits in July.
The Gold Cup, CONCACAF's regional championship, kicks off on July 4 in the U.S. Because of the Confederations Cup, it is thought that a side heavy on the MLS side will be selected.
While there will be an assortment of foreign based players in the Gold Cup squad, as in years past, a number of in form MLS players will also get the call. Here's a look at eight MLS players who are worthy of a look from Bob Bradley and his coaching staff.
Stuart Holden, Midfield, Houston Dynamo
Of the players here, Holden is perhaps the most deserving to get into the squad. The midfielder/forward has been a revelation in the past few weeks, helping alleviate the absence of Brian Ching.
Just look at the goal he scored against Chicago on June 5. A dangerous run into the box to lose his defender and calmly finish past Jon Busch.
Despite his strong start to 2009, Holden has yet to receive a full cap on the international level. An injury in January prevent him from taking place in the U.S. friendly against Sweden. He does bring some international experience to the fold, having played in the 2008 Olympics for the U-23 side.
Even if he's over looked this time around, it probably won't be too long before he gets that first cap.
Kenny Cooper, Forward, FC Dallas
Always a fan favorite of players they'd like to see in a US MNT jersey, Cooper should be a shoo-in to make the team. After all, if he can't get a call up for the Gold Cup, he surely must be pondering what is keeping him out of the U.S. getup.
While Cooper has been capped four times, scoring twice in those appearances, he's yet to gain a meaningful call up. In 2008 many fans were clamoring for the hulking forward to get a chance to prove that he has what it takes as the U.S. offense floundered.
A Gold Cup audition could be just what he needs to prove that he can succeed on the international level.
Geoff Cameron, Defender, Houston Dynamo
Another key member of the Dynamo, Cameron is only in his second year in MLS. However, he's already proved versatility, helping to stabilized a Dynamo defense that looked out to sea at the beginning of the season.
Originally coming into the league as a midfielder, an early season injury to Eddie Robinson forced Cameron to switch to central defense. After a slow start, he is now flourishing, keying a defensive corps that has allowed an MLS-best seven goals all season.
While inexperience might hold him back, if Cameron continues to play at a high level he surely won't go unnoticed for long.
Santino Quaranta, Midfielder/Forward, D.C. United
American sports fans love the underdog stories -- a player overcoming the odds to make it to the big time.
Santino Quaranta fits this bill. Though he had already "made it" as a professional by the early age of 16, struggles with addiction nearly put an early end to his career. In 2008, he made a comeback with D.C. United, and 2009 the dynamic attacker has flourished in the nation's capital.
With 11 caps to his name already, the Gold Cup would be the perfect stage to bring Quaranta back into the national team fold. It's a competition he's already played in once, featuring in the tournament's 2005 edition.
At just 24, he has many years left in the top levels of MLS. If things go his way, he might even get a chance to add to that cap total.
Colin Clark, Midfield, Colorado Rapids
An uncapped winger, Clark has provided steady play for the Rapids all season in 2009. While the U.S. has recently struggled to field a consistent player on the left side of the midfield, Clark has remained a dangerous threat for Colorado.
Though he has not been tested in an atmosphere like the Gold Cup, now would be the perfect time to put his skills on display in front of the US MNT coaching staff.
And if Clark puts in a strong performance he is capable of, he could see himself with a consistent chance for a call up in the future.
Robbie Findley, Forward, Real Salt Lake
A forward with blinding pace, Findley would be the ideal compliment to a strong, powerful attacker like Cooper. While his play for Real Salt Lake has been a touch this season, he would provide much needed pace to the U.S. side.
The only downside to a player like Findley would be his lack of ability playing up top alone. Because of his size, he would have to be deployed alongside another striker in a 4-4-2.
Jimmy Conrad, Defender, Kansas City Wizards
Looking for an experienced, smart defender to lead a backline through an international tournament? Look no further than Captain KC, generally regarded as a fringe player on the international level.
Conrad brings a well-rounded international resume to the fold. Having previously appeared in the Gold Cup in 2005, his 24 caps make him one of the more accomplished U.S. Internationals in MLS.
That seems a bit paltry, perhaps, but having someone like Conrad in the side would do wonders for the defense.
Chris Pontius, Midfielder/Forward, D.C. United
The runaway rookie of the year thus far in MLS, Chris Pontius has enjoyed a tremendous first season playing in Washington, D.C. His versatility alone brings him into the discussion -- he's lined up as a forward, attacking midfielder, holding midfielder, and winger in United's 3-5-2 formation.
Not only that, but he's also excelled in the Black-and-Red, tallying an impressive three goals to lead rookies.
Of the players on the list, Pontius is probably the least likely to make it. But if his career continues the upward trajectory it has started out on, there's no doubt his name will come back into this discussion in the future.
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