The US national team's annual January camp is typically used as a way of looking at players on the fringes. This next one will serve a bigger purpose than that.
US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann is already planning for next month's camp, which will include friendlies vs. Iceland and Canada, and intends to bring two sets of players to Carson, California. One is his usual mix of veterans from MLS, and the other will be a group of US Under-23 national team players.
The reason for the joint setup? To help the full-team crop prepare for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers in March vs. Guatemala, and the younger prospects for their Olympic qualifying play-off vs. Colombia that same month.
"It’s going to be two groups, mixed together and working together side-by-side," Klinsmann said in a video released by US Soccer. "Hopefully we see a lot of good stuff there with two exciting games at the end of the camp.”
Preparing for those important matches is not the only thing on Klinsmann's agenda. Like is the case every January, the US head coach wants to help his MLS-based players get head starts to their preseasons. Klinsmann also hopes to see players take advantage of this opportunity by making a case for more call-ups and playing time.
The way to accomplish that is not only by impressing in training during the month-long camp, but also in the recently-announced friendlies at the StubHub Center. The Americans will take on Iceland on Jan. 31 before facing Canada on Feb. 5.
"We want to do well," said Klinsmann. "Those are international games where we want to see the players step it up and to make their case, because we are going to go into a very, very busy year in 2016 with World Cup qualifying and the huge highlight of Copa América (Centenario) in June.”
Ultimately, though, the January camp will be to prepare both the full-team and U-23 players for what is to come in March. The senior side is in good standing after taking four points from its first pair of 2018 World Cup qualifiers in November, but the Olympic squad is in jeopardy of missing out on the international competition for the second consecutive cycle.
The young US team finished in third place in CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying this past fall, and can only reach the summer games in Brazil if it edges Colombia. That is a lot of pressure on up-and-comers like Wil Trapp and Matt Miazga, but also a reason why Klinsmann is likely summoning them to his January camp.
“Having a part of this group being part of the Olympic team, I think it’s a big advantage because we’re going to give them a chance to get already prepared towards those playoff games with Colombia at the end of March, which is hugely important," said Klinsmann. "We want our Olympic team to qualify for the Olympics, to go to Rio de Janeiro and to have this outstanding experience down there, so having them in camp as well with us is huge and hopefully it will pay off.”