As the MLS season winds down, World Cup qualifying is beginning to heat up. Next weekend, the US Men's National Team takes on Cuba in Washington D.C. to begin the last leg of their push towards the finals of the CONCACAF group.
Coach Bob Bradley named his squad for the upcoming qualifiers, and it thankfully includes a much-needed injection of youth. Jozy Altidore and Freddy Adu will return to the senior national team and hopefully provide the attacking flair that has been absent for several matches. Altidore figures to grab a lot of playing time due to the US' woes at the striker positions.
Bradley also named a lesser-known player who regularly performs well for Mexican club Pachuca. The attacking midfielder Jose Francisco Torres joins the US squad. This is a big capture for Bradley because Torres was eligible to represent either the US or Mexico. Torres chose the US despite some strong overtures from Mexico, and will only help an already-solid American midfield.
Some other notable youngsters called up to the American squad are Charlie Davies (Hammarby), Troy Perkins (Valarenga), Danny Szetela (Brescia) and Michael Orozco (San Luis.) The influx of young players for the upcoming qualifiers is an encouraging sign for American fans who had been disappointed by how certain veteran players *cough* Eddie Johnson *cough* were performing.
Joining the youngsters will be Brad Guzan, Tim Howard, Carlos Bocanegra, Danny Califf, Steve Cherundolo, Jay DeMerit, Frankie Hejduk, Oguchi Onyewu, Heath Pearce, DaMarcus Beasley, Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, Sacha Kljestan, Brian Ching, Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey.
The Philadelphia suburb of Chester has received the necessary building permits to begin construction on their new soccer stadium. Artists' renderings of the stadium look stunning. The stadium is expected to cost $115 million and seat 18,600 fans, including a 2,000 seat section for Philly's already-vocal fan section The Sons of Ben. Kudos to Philly for getting in on the soccer-specific stadium movement.
The Columbus Crew are making campaigning for Argentinian midfielder/striker Guillermo Barros Schelotto to win the MVP award. Schelotto has been out of action since last month with a strained hamstring but his pre-injury numbers are quite impressive. He has scored six goals and created 18 others for his teammates while leading Columbus to the league's best record as of today.
As the final push towards the MLS playoffs begin, we have one of the tightest races for playoff spots in league history. No team has been mathematically eliminated yet. Toronto FC is farthest adrift from a playoff spot and are only six points out with four games left on their schedule.
Be sure to keep your eye on the standings as the last few MLS games of the 2008 regular season wind down.