USMNT's Graham Zusi celebrates with Matt Besler
USA Today Sports

World Cup: USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann excited to see contributions of MLS-based players in camp

CARSON, Calif. – Major League Soccer has once again infiltrated the US national team’s January camp and head coach Jurgen Klinsmann couldn’t be any more thrilled.

The 26-man roster is made up almost entirely of MLS players and includes four who were named to the league’s Best XI in 2013.

“The guys are all here because they impressed the last season,” Klinsmann told reporters before the national team’s training session Tuesday at the StubHub Center. “Some of them are regulars on our team. Some new faces are here that we would like to see in our group, break them into the national team program and give them a first feel for how things work.

"It’s exciting to see some new faces and some talent coming through the pipeline of MLS that we want to help get to the next level. That’s what we’re going to evaluate the next couple of weeks. It’s nice to see that.”

By some projections, the current January camp roster might feature the most World Cup-bound players ever. Klinsmann said recently two to four players could “break into the inner circle” of the senior team, and the competition level has only heightened since he arrived.

“I think we’re going to use this camp as a way to prepare, but also to impress the coaches,” Sporting Kansas City midfielder Graham Zusi told reporters. “It’s a group that really doesn’t have a lot to lose and they can go out there every day and try to make a statement for themselves and make it tough for them not to bring us back.”

Eleven different MLS teams are represented in camp, spearheaded by Sporting Kansas City’s five of Zusi, Matt Besler, Benny Feilhaber, Chance Myers and Seth Sinovic. Nine players are seeking their first appearance with the senior national team, including the five receiving their first call-up.

“First they have to settle in,” Klinsmann said. “They need to feel comfortable and a bit at home. That will take a couple of days. Obviously, when you are a freshman coming in, you’re always a bit nervous, so we give them those days. They hopefully did their homework over the last couple of weeks which we told them to do: that they are in decent shape, that they are not starting from zero and are already going right at it in training.

“Then it’s all down to the players. That’s been my message since the beginning. It’s down to them to show their qualities, express themselves, be confident and prove their point no matter what age they are. I’m excited to see that the next couple of weeks.”

Last year, the January camp served as a catapult to some key MLS-based contributors during World Cup qualifying. That window, according to players, appears to be open once again.

“You look at the guys that got called into this camp, everyone deserves to be here,” LA Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez told reporters. “Everyone is a quality player, so it’s going to be a fight. Through all the competition, we have a very good squad and we’re looking forward to the end game.”

Said Besler: “Collectively, it’s a lot of the guys from Major League Soccer, so we’re all excited to get here. We usually play against each other, but now we’re coming together. The mentality of this camp is very serious. We know what’s at stake in June and this is a preparation camp for that.”