Voices: Joseph Lowery

10 MLS players who should be in January USMNT camp

Jack McGlynn USMNT

It’s January camp time, people.

Later this month, a number of American players will head out to California for the US men’s national team’s annual January camp. Without a permanent manager leading the group, this month’s gathering will be a strange one – capped by friendlies vs. Serbia (Jan. 25) and Colombia (Jan. 28), first at LAFC's Banc of California Stadium and then at LA Galaxy's Dignity Health Sports Park.

Still, it will be a valuable chance for domestic-based players to gain high-level training experience and get a taste of the international level. I said domestic (not Europe) there because this camp isn’t occurring in an official FIFA international window, which means clubs don’t have to release their players. Most of the 2022 FIFA World Cup squad likely won't be in attendance.

So, who should be on interim manager Anthony Hudson’s January camp roster? Let’s spotlight 10 MLS players who deserve a look.

Um, duh?

Vazquez was one of the most dangerous goalscorers in all of MLS last year, racking up 18 goals for FC Cincinnati. He finished in the 89th percentile in non-penalty xG per 90 minutes among MLS forwards and in the 86th percentile for aerials won among that same group of players, per FBref.

With his size, movement off the ball, and knack for putting the ball in the back of the net, Vazquez is absolutely worth calling into camp in January. He could be a useful option up front for the US far beyond this month’s pair of friendlies.

Williamson has had a taste of the national team environment thanks to his appearances in the 2021 Gold Cup-winning squad, but it’s past time for him to get another shot.

Few central midfielders on this continent glide past defenders with the ball as smoothly as Williamson. He’s fantastic on the dribble and creates shots for his attacking teammates with an impressive mixture of ball-carrying and creativity. According to FBref, the Timbers’ midfielder finished in the 91st percentile in expected assisted goals (xAG) among MLS midfielders in 2022.

If he can stay healthy, Williamson has the skills to play a sizable role for the USMNT during this World Cup cycle.

He might not be the rangiest midfielder, but Parks has the sauce.

I mentioned above how few midfielders on this continent move past defenders with as much ease as Williamson – Parks might be one of the few. Per FBref, Parks landed in the 90th percentile in successful dribble percentage among MLS midfielders last year. He eliminates defenders on the dribble and with his quick, effective forward passing.

Given how valuable he’s been to NYCFC, Parks has earned his spot in camp with the United States. He hasn’t made an appearance for the national team since 2018 in a friendly against Bolivia.

We’ve now entered what I like to call "Left Back Row."

Up first, we have Jones, who has been Bruce Arena’s go-to left back for years now with the New England Revolution. Jones is quick, stays wide on the left side, and gets into good spots in the final third. Per FBref, he finished 2022 in the 94th percentile among fullbacks in progressive passes received per 90 minutes. He could be a strong deputy for Antonee Robinson in the USMNT’s left back spot.

The biggest concern I have with Jones is he’s right-footed and plays on the side of his weaker foot. That could cause the US some issues in buildup, but I’d like to at least see him in camp.

Tolkin has a rare, almost shocking amount of confidence. I mean, just look at this clip.

Tolkin is still developing – he’s just 20 years old – but he started 31 games for the Red Bulls in 2022 and has quickly made a name for himself as one of the more dangerous left backs in MLS. He’s aggressive, he’s skillful, and he has good speed on the left side. Players I’ve spoken to from around MLS are incredibly high on him.

With European teams starting to circle, this month could be the perfect time for Tolkin to elevate his international profile even further.

What’s one more left back among friends, right? I promise this is the last one, but I just couldn’t leave Gutman off this list.

Coming off a fantastic 2022 season for Atlanta United, Gutman is one of the best fullbacks in the entire league. Per FBref, he finished in the 99th percentile in non-penalty xG per 90 minutes among fullbacks last year. He gets forward on the left side, can rotate into the halfspace, and just generally causes problems for opposing defenders.

The jury is still out on whether Gutman’s defending or his overall passing game are good enough for the international level. But why don’t we use January camp to help us find out?

As the World Cup wore on, it became clear the USMNT needed more quality central midfielders in their squad. McGlynn could be one of those midfielders in 2026.

McGlynn is silky-smooth on the ball, has a downright phenomenal left foot, and has been one of the cornerstones of the United States U-20 team that will play at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Indonesia later this year. McGlynn needs more professional experience (he still hasn’t broken the 2,000-minute mark in his MLS career), but his ceiling is sky-high.

This month could be the perfect time to give him a taste of the senior international level.

If you’ve ever seen Tyler Adams play soccer, you have a solid idea of what it’s like watching Aidan Morris play soccer.

Adams has a truly elite level of defensive range and defensive vision that Morris is yet to show. But the Columbus Crew midfielder could be the perfect player to deputize for him at the No. 6 spot this year and beyond. Per FBref, Morris finished in the 95th percentile for tackles per 90 minutes among MLS midfielders in 2022. He covers ground, breaks up plays, and makes life miserable for opposing attackers.

At 21, Morris is a high-potential No. 6 who’s worth looking at later this month.

Ebobisse is a really good MLS striker. At this point in MLS’s development as a league, that should count for something.

Ebobisse scored 17 goals last year for one of the worst teams in all of MLS. His underlying numbers aren’t quite as good as Vazquez’s (per FBref, Ebobisse averaged 0.42 non-penalty xG per 90 compared to Vazquez’s 0.49), but they’re still good enough to warrant a January camp call-up. In fact, Ebobisse’s last (and only) appearance for the USMNT came in 2019’s January camp in a match against Panama.

I know the USMNT’s right back depth chart is crowded, but Julian Gressel has reportedly earned a call-up to the United States. The 29-year-old, who was born in Germany, is a US citizen now! And he’s been one of the most productive chance-creators in all of MLS (and not just among outside defenders) over the last several seasons.

Looking specifically at fullbacks, though, Gressel finished in the 90th percentile or higher in non-penalty xG, xAG, shot-creating actions, and progressive passes per 90 minutes among fullbacks in MLS last year. His right foot is golden and his understanding of space is up there with the best in MLS.

I don’t know if Gressel will ever be a regular starter for the USMNT, but given his experience playing out wide and in central midfield back in his Atlanta United days, maybe there’s room for him as a utility player ahead of 2026.