When does US national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann begin preparing for the 2018 World Cup in earnest? He's already gotten started.
Klinsmann discussed the aftermath of the USMNT's 1-0 win over the Czech Republic, the team's first post-2014 World Cup friendly, in comments released by U.S. Soccer on Wednesday.
In particular, he's wasting no time in increasing player responsibilities in the new cycle.
"I think there are a lot of positives we can take out of this game. Obviously, we asked the younger generation, the group that here and there was maybe not the biggest part of the World Cup in Brazil, we asked them to step it up and make statements. And I think that the young group made a very, very strong statement," Klinsmann said.
"I asked players like Mix Diskerud, Joe Corona, Jozy Altidore to take the responsibility in their hands, and to guide that young team in Prague, and that's what they did. They stepped it up. Winning in Prague, winning against the Czech Republic, who barely missed out on the World Cup in Brazil, is a strong statement."
Beyond the expanded roles for several players moving into their best years, Klinsmann spoke about the role of the youth national teams in producing USMNT players.
"For us, it's now a great time after the World Cup to evaluate where our youth national teams stand," he said. "And it starts with the under-17s that went down to Mexico, played a tournament, and did fairly well. The under-18s went to an international tournament in the Czech Republic, a six-nation tournament, and came out as the winner, beating Ukraine in the final. Tab Ramos' under-20 team just comes back from Argentina, from some friendly games, and tied the Argentinian under-20 team 1-1, which is a great result."
With the World Cup just under four years away, a big benchmark for the national team program is the Olympics, a tournament that the US did not qualify for in 2012, and was ultimately won by Mexico. Despite that, Klinsmann is looking for players to be fully familiar with the coaching staff and each other ahead of qualifying.
"Now going forward, we want to build the next Olympic team cycle, the under-23s, and give them games and give them camps, hopefully at the same time as the senior national team to bring them along and bulid a very strong Olympic team for Rio de Janeiro 2016."
Klinsmann indicated a reorganization of sorts since he was hired within the coaching structure, and indicated an integrated approach is planned in building the U-23 team for 2016.
"We're on a very good path with those teams, because we kind of connected all of the coaches with the senior national team over the last three years," he said. "Tab Ramos was with us in Brazil, Javier Perez was with us in Brazil, Richie Williams comes in to our camps, and they know now what the standards are on the senior level. We all communicate with each other, we build the Olympic cycle together. And having connected the dots in those areas now allows us to step up with their programs going forward."
For US fans who may be nervous about the future of the national team with many stalwarts getting older and some retiring, Klinsmann was upbeat about the young players entering the program.
"We are very excited with the next generation of players coming through. Having seen now in training, an Emerson Hyndman, a Rubio Rubin, a Joe Gyau, obviously Julian Green has been with us a year now. Seeing the potential of those players and many other ones in line is just exciting because we can foresee a path over the next three, four years.
"All those teams are the foundation for the success of the senior national team in four or six years from now, so they're very important for us."