STANFORD — “We feel like we go to Stanford right now,” Kyle Beckerman said, and to be honest, he kind of looked the part.
The accomplished midfielder is 32 years old, but with his youthful countenance and white-guy dreadlocks, he looks like he could at least be a grad student. But Beckerman and his cohorts on the U.S. Men's National Team aren't at this stately university to learn. They are here to bond and demonstrate their skills at a 12-day training camp, and coach Jurgen Klinsmann apparently didn't need much time to absorb those lessons.
Klinsmann surprised almost everyone by trimming his squad from 30 players to the required 23 on Thursday, an important step on the USMNT's journey to Brazil. With the roster now set, the team will play three “friendlies” over the next two weeks, starting with Tuesday night's game against Azerbaijan at doomed Candlestick Park.
It's all building toward the 2014 World Cup, which for the Americans will begin with a match against Ghana in the city of Natal on June 16.
“It was the right time to bring them the message that we're now zooming in and starting on working on more details toward Ghana,” Klinsmann said Friday. “Obviously you congratulate everyone being on that 23-man roster, and you feel sorry for the guys who are left out of that moment and hope for their understanding.”
No one knows how Klinsmann's team will hold up in a brutal knockout-round group that also includes European powers Germany and Portugal, but one thing is clear: The fate of the USMNT is tightly bound with that of Major League Soccer, the North American league now in its 19th season.
Is U.S. league worthy?