Not only is MLS producing players in record numbers for national teams -- 45 were called up for the September World Cup 2014 qualifiers -- but foreign national teams are seeking out U.S. citizens or residents and drafting them for international duty.
We can count at least nine U.S.-born or -raised players who will be representing foreign national teams in qualifying action on Friday:
Derby Carillo (El Salvador).The 2012 Open Cup run in goal for Eric Wynalda's Cal FC helped land him a contract in El Salvador, where his father was born. Call-up for the Guyana series was his first with La Selecta.Club: Santa Tecla.
Roger Espinoza (Honduras). Was 12 when he moved to Denver, where his father had been working. Became a U.S. citizen in 2008 but played for Honduras at the 2010 World Cup and 2012 Olympics.Club: Sporting KC.
Ryan Johnson (Jamaica).Born in Kingston and raised in Dorchester, Mass., where his inner-city team was the first to play in the Boston Area Youth Soccer League. Debuted for Jamaica early in first MLS season.Club: Toronto FC.
Will Johnson (Canada). Born in Toronto to English parents. Played for Chicago area Sockers FC with future U.S. internationals Michael Bradley and Jonathan Spector. Also played with Bradley as a teenager at Dutch club Heerenveen. Club: Real Salt Lake.
Nick Millington (Guyana). Represented the USA in qualifying for the 2007 Under-17 World Cup but made one-time switch to play for Guyana, where his father was born. Debuted for Golden Jaguars last month. Club: Carolina RailHawks.
Steve Purdy (El Salvador). Born and raised in California to an American father and Salvadoran mother. Called up for the U.S. national team friendly against Switzerland in 2007 while playing in Germany for 1860 Munich. Added to the Salvadoran national team for the 2011 Gold Cup. Club: Portland Timbers.
Joel Senior (Jamaica).Attended Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington and Howard and James Madison. Moved back to Jamaica in 2011 and plays for Harbour View. Debuted for Reggae Boyz in 2012.
Neven Subotic (Serbia).The one player who got away but who would have really helped the USA. His story is well known: Family fled Bosnian War. He was discovered playing in park next to U.S. U-17 residency program. Played for the USA at the 2005 Under-17 World Cup but then cooled on representing it at higher levels. Wanted to play for Germany but wasn't eligible for citizenship. Played for Serbia at the 2010 World Cup. Club: Borussia Dortmund.
Rodney Wallace (Costa Rica).Born in Costa Rica and moved to the Washington, D.C., area at the age of 9 when his mother came to work for the Organization of American States. Scored the goal that handed Jurgen Klinsmann his first defeat as U.S. national team coach. Club: Portland Timbers.
EUROPE DEBUT.Europe, the last continent to kick off qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, will send the most teams to Brazil: 13. But only the nine group winners are assured tickets to the finals. And only eight of the nine runners-up will even advance to the playoffs in which the winners of four home-and-home series will pick up the other four tickets to Brazil.
These four longshots could break through (seeds ahead of them in parentheses):
Belgium(Group A: Croatia, Serbia). The Red Devils rank third in the world -- behind only Brazil and Portugal -- in terms of transfer fees spent on their starting lineup.
Czech Republic(Group B: Italy, Denmark). Recovered from a blowout in its opening game at Euro 2012 to re
ach the quarterfinals.
Switzerland(Group E: Norway, Slovenia). Bayern Munich's Xherdan Shaqiri is one of many young players Ottmar Hitzfeld has to work with.
Bosnia(Group G: Greece, Slovakia). Lost to Portugal in playoffs for the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012. Like Switzerland, benefits from being placed in a comparatively weak group.
(Click here for all the European groups.)
ALL OVER THE AIR. No less than 28 qualifiers will be available live to American viewers. BeIN SPORT (available in DirecTV and Disk Network) will carry the Jamaica-USA friendly and all four South American qualifiers. ESPN3.com will carry 19 games, while ESPN Deportes, Univision Deportes, Telemundo and GolTV all have matches.
(Soccer America's Soccer on TV has all Friday's listings here.)
BRAZIL WATCH. Four weeks after Brazil was upset by Mexico in the Olympic gold-medal match, Coach Mano Menezes is still in charge, and he's sticking with his youth movement for Friday's friendly against South Africa in Sao Paulo. Chelsea's Ramires will join five Olympians in the front six: Lucas, Oscar, Romulo, Neymar and Leandro Damiao.
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