US national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann will unveil the 40-man preliminary roster for the 2016 Copa America on Sunday. The tournament will be the most important competition hosted by US Soccer since the 1994 World Cup, and with Klinsmann's recent failures as coach, it will be an important tournament for the national team to prove it ranks among the 30 best in the world.
Playing on home soil against the likes of Lionel Messi with the world watching, this will be crucial for the development of American soccer. The roster that Klinsmann selects and the lineup he puts forth when the tournament begins in a little more than a month will obviously be huge.
With that in mind, here is a categorization of the players based in Major League Soccer who could be or will be in contention for a final roster spot during the team's training camp:
The guarantees: Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Kyle Beckerman
There really aren't many guarantees with Klinsmann, but these three are the closest we are going to get. Bradley will start as a box-to-box midfielder in whatever formation they use—in my opinion, he should be played as a defensive midfielder, where he has done exceptionally well with Toronto FC this season, but I doubt that will happen—while Real Salt Lake's Beckerman will either start in defensive midfield or come off the bench in place of Danny Williams, a 27-year old DM who plays in the English Football Championship.
Barring injuries, Altidore will start at striker. He's recently solidified his spot with impressive performances in Toronto.
Likely veterans: Matt Besler, Jermaine Jones, Graham Zusi, Clint Dempsey
I would put Jones on the "guarantees" list, but his recent suspension *could* theoretically give someone else an opportunity. It's more likely that Klinsmann will play him as a left-back or something. Unfortunately, given his recent performance with the Colorado Rapids, he could be played as a number-ten, which would be disastrous, but it's something that could happen.
Besler is a good veteran option at center-back, while his Sporting Kansas City teammate Zusi could be a safety option out on the wing or in the midfield. It's hard to go against someone like Dempsey, with his vast international experience.
Other likely players: Gyasi Zardes, Steve Birnbaum
Zardes has been a favorite of Klinsmann in recent years, so it's likely he will be on the final roster. The other may not be as rock solid, however.
Birnbaum, a defender for D.C. United, impressed in World Cup qualifying appearances, but doesn't have the pedigree or experience of some other players. He'll have to perform well in the training camp to prove himself worthy of spot on the final roster.
Possibilities: Chris Wondolowski, Nick Rimando, Mix Diskerud, Brad Evans, Darlington Nagbe, David Bingham, Lee Nguyen, Ethan Finlay, Kellyn Acosta
Wondo is a goal-scoring machine and is always a serious candidate for big tournaments. Diskerud had a down season in 2015, but has slightly improved this year with NYCFC, likely putting him on the radar of Klinsmann.
Rimando, a 36-year old goalkeeper for RSL, could be a candidate for the third keeper spot given his penalty saving abilities, while the Sounders' Evans is a versatile defender with experience on the international level.
Nagbe was cap-tied to the US in November and has since seen playing time with the national team, but while played as a winger instead of as a central midfielder, where he is considerably better. Nguyen is a chance-creating number-ten who has never really gotten his due under Jurgen, while Finlay is a known commodity who could be a good addition when chasing a goal.
Acosta is an exciting young prospect with FC Dallas who is so much better in defensive midfield than at full-back, but he's been played out of position almost his entire career with the US. Bingham could latch on as a third goalkeeper with more good performances in San Jose.
—Benny Feilhaber: A midfielder who should probably make it, but because of this, he won't.
—Alan Gordon: Super-sub? Unlikely, but always possible.
—DaMarcus Beasley: I think he's retired for good now.
—Wil Trapp: A promising player, but recent bad performances probably will see him out of the roster.
—Jordan Morris: It's always good to get young players like Morris in a camp like this one. He could be a valuable, versatile forward.
—C.J. Sapong: The Union striker has been one of the best players in MLS this season.
—Brek Shea: In a weak left-back pool, Shea could have a shot.
—Brandon Vincent: He hasn't done much in his rookie season to prove he should be on this roster, but he played well in World Cup qualifiers.
Predicted final roster:
GKs (3): Brad Guzan, Tim Howard, Ethan Horvath
DFs (7): DeAndre Yedlin, Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler, John Brooks, Michael Orozco, Matt Miazga, Edgar Castillo
CMs (6): Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Kyle Beckerman, Danny Williams, Alejandro Bedoya, Graham Zusi
Wingers (3): Fabian Johnson, Darlington Nagbe, Christian Pulisic
FWs (4): Jozy Altidore, Gyasi Zardes, Bobby Wood, Clint Dempsey
I'm probably missing something, so go ahead and yell at me in the comments section.