Kick Off: Landon Donovan back in the spotlight, Brad Friedel chimes in on US' "conveyor belt of talent"

Here are the Top 15 soccer stories we’re following today.

1) GET SET FOR MLS WEEK 18!

We're essentially halfway through the season, but it seems every team still believes they've got a chance. The standings seem to agree as well. Here's where to watch all eight matches, headlined by Sunday's New York vs. Houston match on ESPN2. Also, the California Clasico between San Jose and LA hits Stanford Stadium again on Saturday, and this time you can watch it on the MLS Stream of the Week. You'll also want to adjust your MLS Fantasy team and set Three Goal Monte before it is too late.

2) GOLD CUP ROSTER SET AS KLINSMANN CALLS MIX OF VETS AND YOUNGSTERS

Here are the 23 guys the US will lean on during July as they attempt to wrest the cup back from Mexico. Landon Donovan will be there with something to prove, and he'd like to do that by winning the whole thing in Chicago at the end of the month. Meanwhile, Carlos Bocanegra and Brek Shea won't be joining LD, as Jurgen Klinsmann said club commitments kept them out of the squad. Are they the biggest roster surprises, though? Give your opinion here.

3) IS KLINSMANN GOING FOR BROKE AT THE GOLD CUP?

Where are all the defensive midfielders? You might have asked yourself that after pouring over the squad, and MLSsoccer.com's Charles Boehm examines why that's a big of a shock. Still, Kyle Beckerman will be there to protect the backline, and he joined ExtraTime Radio to discuss Real Salt Lake's blistering start, the Gold Cup and who he thinks is the best-ever holding mid in MLS. Beckerman wouldn't speculate about his status as a shoo-in starter, but Simon Borg's XI certainly has the RSL man in the team.

4) BEDOYA HEADED FOR THE NETHERLANDS AFTER CONTRACT ENDS?

There's nothing teams love more than a good bargain, and USMNT Gold Cup midfielder Alejandro Bedoya could fit the bill for FC Twente. Fire up Google Translate to check out the original report out of Sweden and the follow up from a the Dutch side's fans. Would it be a good move?

5) HONDURAS NAME TWO MLSers TO GOLD CUP SQUAD

The duo? San Jose's Marvin Chávez and Seattle's Mario Martínez. You can see the full squad here. Meanwhile, Martínez's future appears to be with the Sounders as negotiations are ongoing with the midfielder ahead of the end of his loan from Real España on June 30.

6) US U-20s CRASH OUT OF WORLD CUP AS GHANA ONCE AGAIN BREAK AMERICAN HEARTS

We already knew Ghana was the US' worst nightmare in winner-take-all matches. That sentiment won't change after the Africans dropped Tab Ramos' side 4-1 on Thursday to send the young Nats home after three group matches in which they gave up nine goals. "It just wasn't enough," Ramos said after the match.

7) BUT WHAT DOES U-20 FAILURE MEAN IN THE GRAND SCHEME?

Not much, according to Kyle McCarthy. As he points out, the group was formidable and the pain of an early, yet generally expected, exit is sure to overshadow the fact that the US attempted to play proactively at times. Did it work out all the time? Nope. But it's a sign that perhaps the tide is slowly shifting. Now it's about pushing forward, as players such as the Colorado Rapids Shane O'Neill return to their clubs with something to prove.

8) FRIEDEL CHIMES IN ON STATE OF AMERICAN TALENT DEVELOPMENT

One thing is certain, Brad Friedel is not impressed with the win-at-all-costs mentality. In fact, he said the US "should have a conveyor belt of talent" based on the size of the country and the quality of the athletes. Find out how he plans to help correct that.

9) GET READY FOR THE SILLY SEASON, BUT WILL IMPACT BE QUIET?

After jumping to the top of the Eastern Conference with games in hand and little cap room to speak of, some up north believe Montreal will play their cards close this summer. In the spirit of the season, take a walk down memory lane as MLSsoccer.com's Jonah Freedman examines moves past – good and bad – in MLS.

10) MONTERO'S PORTUGAL MOVE LOOKS ALL BUT DONE, EVANS TOO?

The Fredy Montero era in Seattle appears to be officially over, even if the writing was on the wall for the past six months. The Sounders confirmed on Thursday that they're in talks with Sporting Lisbon, and it seems the deal will be done sooner rather than later. Could this also be former teammate Brad Evans' last season in MLS? Get the latest here.

11) COULD ALTIDORE HACK IT IN ITALY? ROSSI CERTAINLY THINKS SO

Jozy Altidore is garnering interest from all over these days – that's what happens when you notch a 30-goal season – and Serie A's Lazio appear to be a frontrunner. That's a good fit, according to Guiseppe Rossi, who knows the US striker well from their shared time at Villarreal: "Jozy had a great season this year and I'm so proud of him," Rossi told Goal.com. "I hope his dreams come true."

12) IS KALIFA CISSÉ ON HIS WAY OUT OF NEW ENGLAND?

He hasn't logged a minute in six straight matches, but that hasn't kept English clubs such as Watford, Middlesbrough, Charlton and Millwall off Cissé's trail, according to SkySports. Then again, with lines like "are all thought to be monitoring," we're not sure whether to buy or sell this report. Make your own judgment.

13) ROBSON HOPING TO GET BACK INTO SCOTLAND SIDE WITH ABERDEEN

Things didn't go as planned in Vancouver for Barry Robson, that much is certain. He had mixed things to say about the club and MLS recently ahead of his first season with Aberdeen, praising the club but panning the intensity of the games in the US. “I just couldn’t get into the mentality in the USA," Robson told the Daily Record. ... "There just wasn’t the same intensity in games as there is in this country and I missed that.” Could former teammate Kenny Miller follow him? Many think that will be the case.

14) DWYER HEADS BACK TO KC AFTER RECORD-BREAKING LOAN

Dom Dwyer is back in MLS after Sporting KC brought the young striker back from Orlando City FC, but it remains to be seen whether he can replicate the form that saw his score 18 goals in all competitions with the Lions. How much playing time he will get in Sporting's deep side remains to be seen. Listen to what the man himself had to say about his time in USL PRO as Dwyer joined the Off the Bench podcast.

15) CONFEDERATIONS CUP FINAL SET AFTER SPAIN'S DRAMATIC WIN

La Furia Roja are back in an international final, this time against hosts Brazil. They got there without scoring a goal, too, although the match was full of chances. Who would you take on Sunday? Either way, it promises to be a fascinating match. Tragically, a protester was confirmed dead on Thursday in Brazil as unrest continued.

MLSsoccer.com Musts

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