When we talk about the USMNT, by all accounts 2015 was a dud. The team struggled in almost every phase, from injuries, to poor performances, to getting beat in the semifinals at the Gold Cup. Nothing seemed to be going right, and Jurgen Klinsmann has been put on the hot seat. Now we look forward to the 2016 schedule, new faces, and a general overview for the team.

Competitions On Deck

2016 Copa America

Of course, there will be friendlies, starting with Iceland on the 31st, and Canada on February 5th. Since most leagues are in season, it is difficult to get friendlies in outside of the international breaks. March is when things really start to get juicy. The under-23 squad will have their 2-game playoff with Colombia, with a bid to the 2016 Olympics on the line. March also plays host to two World Cup qualifiers, facing off against Guatemala twice in a 5 day span.

Klinsmann has put an emphasis on making the Olympics for this under-23 squad. He will likely pull out all the stops for the playoff, meaning young players like DeAndre Yedlin and John Brooks might miss out on the Guatemala matches. Considering Matt Besler and Geoff Cameron have been in the lineup when it really counts, it might be easy to have both pairs in separate places. Both events are going to be critical to the success of the national team.

After March, there will be a little break, before ramping back up in the form of the Copa America Centenario, hosted by the US. The USMNT will be one of the 4 seeds by virtue of being hosts, with the draw to decide the rest of the group. The tournament will start on June 3rd, and conclude on the 26th of the same month. The Olympic tournament will start in August, should the team qualify. The Olympic tournament ends on August 20th, with the medal rounds taking place in Brazil.

Another quick turnaround will see two more World Cup qualifiers in September on the 2nd and the 6th. If the team advances to the final round, the “Hexagonal,” they will see at least two more matches in November for World Cup Qualifying. Right now, there are 11 matches scheduled for the USMNT including the Olympic playoff. Even without additional friendlies, that number could swell to over 20 competitive matches very easily if the team advances in various competitions. To put that in perspective, 2015 only saw 9 competitive matches, while being loaded with 11 friendlies.

Faces, Old and New

Brad Guzan and Tim Howard

Throughout this year, we will see quite a few old faces, while ushering in a new wave of stars. Players like Michael Bradley and Brad Guzan are virtual locks to be around for a few more years, while newcomers Matt Miazga and Jordan Morris are looking to begin their own legacy for the US. Barring some Messi or Ronaldo-esque numbers, there shouldn’t be any major records broken.

Any way you put it, Jurgen Klinsmann will have to put some results up on the board. There have been quite a few rumblings about him being fired, but he still sits as the head man in charge. Plenty of spots are up for grabs in preparation for the next World Cup, and this year will be integral to making a statement for some, and cementing their place for others.

Michael Bradley has taken over the captain’s armband, and will likely be a fixture in the squad so long as he is healthy. The next most solidified position is goalkeeper, where Brad Guzan and Tim Howard are platooning. Even if one wins the starting job, both are likely to be around for awhile. Yedlin and Brooks have been priorities for Jurgen Klinsmann, while players like Jordan Morris and Gyasi Zardes appear to have his confidence as well. As for other veterans, the striker position is going through a transition. Clint Dempsey is still productive, but getting older. Jozy Altidore’s club struggles continue to plague his career, and Aron Johansson’s injuries have prevented him from locking down the spot. Fabian Johnson had a spat with Klinsmann, but seems to have gotten over it, and will likely be somewhere on the field over the next couple year.

As for up and comers, last year’s U-20 World Cup has a host of characters that might begin to make an impact on the national team. Matt Miazga was recently cap tied during World Cup qualifying. Emerson Hyndman was the U-20 captain, and has a senior level cap as well. Gedion Zelalem has played very well at Rangers, and made the permanent switch to the US for the U-20 World Cup last summer. Another exciting prospect is Cameron Carter-Vickers. The Tottenham Academy product played for the US by way of an American father, but is still eligible for the English national team as well. These four were the core for the U-20 team that advanced to the quarterfinals of the World Cup before falling to the eventual champions.

There you have it. A super busy schedule and a lot of uncertainty have created quite a few awesome storylines for 2016. This year will be exciting and full of drama, if nothing else. Here is to hoping the Red, White, and Blue can take the next step to becoming a global soccer power.


Tags: , , , ,