It's nearly time again for the US national team's annual January camp, otherwise known as the best chance for unproven MLS players to show they belong on the USMNT level.
This yearly event, to be held from January 11-28 at StubHub Center, also brings with it much discussion about which guys have earned a shot to raise their USMNT status.
Most players in my list below are uncapped; the few that do have USMNT appearances to their name have collected just seven international caps between them. Many are youthful US prospects looking to step up, but there are also a few veterans that have earned a look. The thing they all have in common is I'd like to see them called to camp next month:
Tyler Adams (MF, New York Red Bulls)
The New York Red Bulls utility knife can shred opponents from various field locations, but it would certainly be nice if interim US boss Dave Sarachan (and/or the eventual managerial hire) can figure out how to get both him and Weston McKennie on the pitch without either of them having to act as the defensive midfielder. That won't happen in January, what with the Schalke kid being unavailable. The latter's absence, does, however, grant Adams that preferred central midfield assignment.
Marky Delgado (MF, Toronto FC)
If the USMNT is going to play a three-man central midfield triangle (as found in a 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 and 3-5-2), they have no shortage of options for the two-way shuttler role. Delgado was the man doing all the little things to make Toronto FC's championship midfield troika run smoothly.
If a guy like this is going to dip his toe in international waters, it will almost definitely need to happen at a January camp.
Stefan Frei (GK, Seattle) / Zack Steffen (GK, Crew SC)
Okay, maybe it's cheating to squeeze two players into a pick, but I'll claim poetic license as only one can play at the position. Simply put, it's the best two goalkeepers from the last two MLS Cup Playoffs. They've both earned a place in this camp.
Justen Glad (DF, Real Salt Lake)
The uncapped Real Salt Lake man is but one of several young central defenders in the pool, but many of them play in Europe and won't be selected next month. This should give Glad a chance to wet his feet at the senior international level.
Ike Opara (DF, Sporting Kansas City)
Nobody on this list fits the "but he's earned it" tag than the MLS Defender of the Year. It may be a cliché, but 28 is not that old for a center back. Opara is a highly-athletic, all-action defender who is finally enjoying the health necessary to pull USMNT nods.
Matt Polster (DF, Chicago Fire)
As with the central defense, much of the USMNT's right back depth chart plays club ball overseas. The leaves a January opening for Matt Polster, who was actually better at both ends of the field than bookend Chicago teammate Brandon Vincent (more on him later) after his May return from injury.
Christian Ramirez (FW, Minnesota United)
All but four of 23 MLS players that scored at least a dozen goals this past season have international caps to their credit. Three of the four are from Argentina. The other is Ramirez, who made good on a long-awaited opportunity to display MLS scoring chops this season. Perhaps the best thing about the Minnesota United striker is he doesn't need tons of chances to strike. Could he be a real bench weapon for the US? Let's find out.
Kelyn Rowe (MF, New England Revolution)
It's a shame the New England handyman was not fit for the last World Cup qualifier. The US could have used his eye for and execution in the big-play moment. Due to an August knee setback, Rowe has been left out of the picture since starring in the Gold Cup group phase last summer. It's time to end that USMNT layoff and make the left wing starting spot his to lose in camp.
C.J. Sapong (FW, Philadelphia Union)
Other than Adams, I'm least worried about the Philadelphia Union striker being selected. I'll be stunned if his strong showing against Portugal (after nearly six years out of the US frame, mind you) didn't ensure his January place. He's always been a good target man, but Sapong has added some of the attack awareness typically shown by regular US starter Jozy Altidore.
Brandon Vincent (DF, Chicago Fire)
Yeah, he had a couple of bad days down the stretch, but the Chicago left back used most of 2017 to break through as a top tier MLS left back (something that is no longer easy to do). He can still work on the 1-v-1 defending, but I'm curious to see what the US could do if Vincent can translate his flank push and crossing ability to the international game.