The US men's national team continues its 2021 Conacaf Gold Cup campaign on Thursday with its Group B matchup against Martinique (9:30 pm ET | FS1), meaning that the players selected by head coach Gregg Berhalter will be afforded another chance to make their case for inclusion when the USMNT kicks off World Cup Qualifying in September.
With that in mind, FOX Sports analyst Stu Holden joined hosts Susannah Collins and Jillian Sakovits on the latest episode of The Call Up to discuss a variety of USMNT-related topics, chief among them who exactly he's keeping an eye on to show they deserve to be a part of the WCQs.
On a broad level, Holden said that his hope is that this group can use the Gold Cup to maintain the buzz surrounding the program.
"I think for this national team the challenge is going to be in the Gold Cup without your top eight to 10 players — is how do these guys maintain that momentum and win a trophy at the end of it?" Holden said. "Because it's all about winning a trophy. And it's not going to look the same but really it's about competing and continuing to build a culture, so I think that's the most important thing that I've taken away from this tournament, and who can emerge as individuals and say to Gregg Berhalter: 'Hey, I need to be in your squad come World Cup Qualifying in September.'"
So, out of his 23-man group, who are the players to watch? Posed that question, Holden said he would try and narrow it down to players who are newer to the program, with Portland Timbers midfielder Eryk Wiliamson and Sporting Kansas City homegrown Gianluca Busio standing out above the rest.
Williamson has emerged as one of the better defensive midfielders in MLS over the past two seasons with the Timbers, while Busio is considered one of the league's most talented young players with an increasing amount of overseas interest and USMNT buzz surrounding the 18-year-old in recent weeks. New York City FC's James Sands, Holden said, is another name to watch.
"[Orlando City forward] Daryl Dike is one. I think we all have seen him emerge over the last year or so, and I even feel like I'm kind of cheating say that," Holden said. "I would say between Eryk Williamson and Gianluca Busio. Busio came on the field and I know he was at home in Kansas City and the last 20 minutes of a game against Haiti is not where you're going to judge him. I'm interested, and I hope he gets the start in the second game because we get to learn a little bit more and it feels like a great spot for him."