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Herzog, Klinsmann's trusted assistant, has been named coach of the under-23 team, and he will look to build the U-23s from three blocks:
2014 World Cup team. Three 2014 World Cup players are eligible as U-23s for the 2016 Olympics: John Brooks, Julian Green and DeAndre Yedlin. None started in Brazil, but all three made significant contributions off the bench. The dilemma is that all three are now based in Europe with Yedlin's transfer to Tottenham, and their availability for qualifying -- let alone the Olympic tournament -- is uncertain.
2013 Under-20 World Cup team. Tab Ramos coached the U-20s for the first time in 2013, leading them to second place with a very credible showing against Mexico in the final of the Concacaf Under-20 Championship. They only picked up one point in three games at the Under-20 World Cup in Turkey, but it was a 1-1 tie against eventual champion France.
Four players whom Ramos took to Turkey are with the senior national team in Chile: defender Shane O'Neill and midfielders Luis Gil and Wil Trapp, plus Yedlin, who was called in from Tottenham for Wednesday's game and the match Feb. 8 against Panama. Dillon Serna, who is also in Chile, started for the U-20s in qualifying but did not make the final U-20 World Cup roster. An excellent 2014 season with Colorado as a wide midfielder has put him very much in the U-23 picture.
One concern with the 2013 U-20 group is that many of
the key players on the team that held Mexico even into overtime in the Puebla final have not progressed. Captain Benji Joya was dropped by the Chicago Fire
after one season on loan from Santos, Jose Villarreal's loan from the LA Galaxy to Cruz Azul was a disaster, and players like Daniel Cuevas and Juan Pablo Ocegueda have had trouble even getting playing time in the Mexican second division.
2015 Under-20 World Cup team. While the USA struggled to qualify for New Zealand 2015 and never developed the cohesion that his 2013 team had, Ramos is very, very high on many of current U-20s, players like Emerson Hyndman and Kellyn Acosta in midfield and 17-year-old Cameron Carter-Vickers in the back.
Ramos also evokes the depth of talent on the current team, which helps the numbers game. The bigger the pool of potential standouts, the higher the number of them who will likely pan out.
The two U-20 World Cup teams won't contribute all the players Herzog will be looking at. Stanford University's Jordan Morris, who was capped at the senior national team level in the fall, didn't make the 2013 U-20 World Cup though he got a look-see late in the process.
English-based players Marc Pelosi and Will Packwood were unable to take part in the 2013 Under-World Cup because both suffered broken legs. Their recovery has been slow, though. Pelosi joined the USA for January camp but was bothered by a knee injury that prevented him from traveling to Chile.
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best player in the current U-20 pool is 18-year-old Rubio Rubin, who plays for FC Utrecht but did not join the U-20s in Jamaica for qualifying. He started for
the USA against Colombia in November and did not look out of place.
One area of concern at the moment is in goal. In 2012, U-23 keepers Bill Hamid and Sean Johnson were already in their third MLS seasons as starters. There is currently no U-23 keeper who is starting at the professional level.
Jon Kempin, who is with the national team in Chile, started three games for Sporting Kansas City in 2014 but looks to again be the No. 3 keeper in 2015 as SKC has brought in Luis Marin and Tim Melia ahead of him.