It might seem like the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup is still far away, but it is less than five months away, meaning it isn't too early to start thinking about the squad Bob Bradley will put together to try and regain the Gold Cup title.
The United States has won the past three Gold Cup titles where the first-choice squad was available and this year's tournament will feature America's best. It will be up to Bradley to determine which 23 players are worthy of being selected.
You could argue that Bradley has much tougher roster decisions looming than he saw in 2007 or 2009, the other two Gold Cup tournaments Bradley coached in and won.
Will this year's team have some new blood? Of course, though it won't have as many new faces as some may be hoping for. The reality is that, for this year at least, there are some very good veterans who are up there in age, but still clearly the top options at their respective positions.
So who will make the USA Gold Cup roster? Here is our projection of the 23 players Bob Bradley will select:
PROJECTED 2011 Gold Cup Roster
GOALKEEPERS- Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Sean Johnson
DEFENDERS- Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo, Oguchi Onyewu, Clarence Goodson, Jonathan Spector, Eric Lichaj, Tim Ream, Jonathan Bornstein
MIDFIELDERS- Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Stuart Holden, Maurice Edu, Ricardo Clark, Alejandro Bedoya
FORWARDS- Jozy Altidore, Edson Buddle, Juan Agudelo, Teal Bunbury
Here are some thoughts on the picks:
GOALKEEPER- Sean Johnson could make way for a veteran, but it's not likely the third goalkeeper will be needed. That said, Johnson impressed enough to get 45 minutes on Saturday. Bradley could easily go with Nick Rimando instead, or perhaps bring in Marcus Hahnemann.
DEFENDERS- Jay DeMerit, Omar Gonzalez, Heath Pearce, Zach Loyd and Sean Franklin are all in the conversation, but they'll have to work hard over the next five months to break into the squad. DeMerit hasn't played since the World Cup and isn't getting any younger, while Gonzalez still needs to work on his passing. Heath Pearce could definitely break into the mix, as could Loyd, if Bornstein's run in Mexico is an unsuccessful one. So why Bornstein again? He's been called on before, and if he's playing regularly for Tigres, even if it isn't at left back, Bradley will likely turn to him. Now, if he isn't playing, and someone like Pearce or Loyd can find a nice run of form, Bornstein could be pushed aside.
MIDFIELDERS- Very tough decisions for Bradley. Sacha Kljestan, Benny Feilhaber, Jose Torres and Mixx Diskerud are all on the outside looking in. Bradley could leave behind a forward and bring another midfielder, but with five central midfielders already on the roster he would more likely add a winger. Feilhaber can play on the wing, as can Kljestan. Right now Clark is in, especially if he keeps playing regularly for Eintracht Frankfurt, but I could definitely see Kljestan getting the call because of his attacking qualities.
FORWARDS- Right now it doesn't seem like the race here is all that tough. Altidore and Agudelo should be locks, while Buddle will have to be considered if he can keep scoring goals. Bunbury is not a lock, but we'll include him here. If Bradley brings an extra midfielder, Bunbury would likely be left off. It will be VERY interesting to see what happens if Danny Mwanga secures his citizenship. If he does, he'll have to be considered a good candidate for this group. There are others on the radar, like Chris Wondolowski and Herculez Gomez, but they'll need strong showings over the next five months to make up ground.
What do you think of the squad? Which players do you think should be on the squad? Which players do you NOT want to see make the team?
Share your thoughts below.