The United States Men's National Team is ranked 31st in the latest edition of the FIFA rankings. This is a disappointment when one considers that the US was ranked as high as fourth in world in the months leading up to the 2006 World Cup.
FIFA has since changed the way that they rank national teams, and that caused the US to plummet down the table. Number four in the world was definitely an inflated ranking for a team that has never done anything bigger than winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup, but number 31 also seems too low for a team with exciting young talent and a new-found willingness to test themselves against superpowers like Argentina and Spain.
As qualifying for the 2010 World Cup swings into high gear, the US will most likely begin to climb the rankings table, but slowly. Mexico is the only other real power in CONCACAF, and thus the confederation is not taken seriously by the twin powers that are UEFA and CONMEBOL.
So how can the US get themselves some respect on the international stage? Continue pouring money into youth programs and encouraging their players to sign with the best leagues abroad. Michael Bradley, Freddy Adu and DaMarcus Beasley are just three examples of players who have seen their game taken to new heights thanks to European competition.
There is another way to become more competitive on the international stage. Thanks to immigration, the United States is filled with talented players with foreign heritage who are eligible to play for multiple national teams. The US has to do a better job of enticing these players to turn out for their adopted country.
Gone are the days of Alfredo Di Stefano where a player could turn out for multiple national teams (he played for Argentina, Colombia, and Spain.) Now, once a player makes an appearance at the full international level, he can not appear for any other country. One of the following players is already out of the United States' hands, but the other two have still not made appearances for senior national teams.
Castillo is an American-born Mexican defender, and he has already made two appearances for the Mexican National Team. He had an outstanding youth career on teams in New Mexico, winning several state titles. His club team, Striker F.C. IV, was tops in the state and ranked seventh in the country when he suited up for them.
In 2007, Hugo Sanchez called Castillo up to the Mexican squad for two friendlies. Sven Goran Eriksson has also called Castillo up for some upcoming World Cup qualifiers. The talented defender, who plays for Santos Laguna in the Mexican Primera Division, is expected to play against Honduras on August 20th.
By far the most well-known of the three players on this list, Rossi was born in New Jersey to parents who had emigrated from Italy. At age 17, his rights were purchased by Manchester United and he began playing for the youth teams and reserves.
He was loaned out to Newcastle and Parma to gain more first team experience and impressed on the field. During the 2007 summer transfer window, Villareal snapped him up, and he has since scored 11 goals in 27 chances for the La Liga side.
Internationally, Rossi has turned out for the Italian U-16, U-17, U-18 and U-21 sides. He is also competing in the Beijing Olympics. Former US coach Bruce Arena invited him to a pre-World Cup training camp in 2006, but Rossi declined and has repeatedly stated his desire to play for Italy.
He has not yet represented the Azzurri at the full international level, but a call-up can not be that far off. Is there anything that the US can do to convince Rossi to play for them? Probably not.
Ever since he was a youngster, he has had his heart set on playing for Italy. A striker of his caliber would be a great help to the US attack though. He's quick, strong and talented, and has proved that he can score against the world's best.
Subotic was born in the former Yugoslavia, and is eligible to represent Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany, the US and possibly Serbia at the international level. He played college soccer at the University of South Florida, and has represented the United States at the U-17 and U-20 levels. Currently, he is at the beginning of a five-year contract with Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund.
On the surface, it might seem like Subotic is a lock to turn out for the US Men's National Team, but that is not the case. There are some hurt feelings due to the fact that coach Thomas Rongen left him off the roster for the 2007 U-20 World Cup.
"I find this disappointing, because a few months later after Rongen said I was not good enough for the U-20s, I played a very good season and started getting calls from various countries [U.S. included] for the full men's team. I still don't know what he saw in the other players, and what he didn't see in me." Said Subotic to ESPNsoccernet.com.
Subotic is a tall defender, the same height as US defender Oguchi Onyewu. The US team is often vulnerable to aerial attacks, and having two players of that size in the back would do a lot to shore up the defense.
Hopefully for Men's National Team coach Bob Bradley, Subotic will put the U-20 World Cup behind him and agree to play for the US when he makes a decision about his international future.