He doesn't have the obnoxious contract. You won't find him in many commercials or on BART station advertisements. He has fewer than 19,000 followers on Twitter.

Yet Chris Wondolowski, the San Jose Earthquakes star and Bay Area native, is so close to the biggest stage in sports that he can taste it.

"It would be a huge feather in his cap to be on a World Cup team," Quakes legend and general manager John Doyle said this week.

The Earthquakes kick off their 2014 Major League Soccer season Saturday against Real Salt Lake. And Wondolowski continues his quest for Brazil. Now might be a good time to get on the bandwagon.

The Danville native is by no means a lock to make the U.S. team. But he is one of a few options coach Jurgen Klinsmann is weighing to complete his collection of forwards, headed by Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Eddie Johnson and talented youngster Aron Johannsson.

Wondolowski forced himself into serious consideration last month after scoring two goals in USA's friendly against South Korea. If he plays anything like he did in 2012, when he scored 27 goals and won the league's MVP award, it would bolster his case for making the 23-man team in Brazil.

No pressure.

"It's one of those things where I have to play well day in and out," Wondolowski said. "If I do that, it will help my situation come June."


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Keep in mind, Wondolowski is not supposed to be here. He's 6-feet, 165 pounds of non-intimidation. He doesn't wow with his athleticism, either. Plus he's 31 years old -- two months older than Dempsey, who has 102 caps already.

But steady progression has marked Wondolowski's career. He's the same pesky and relentless kid who terrorized defenses while playing at De La Salle. He has grown from leading goal scorer on the Chico Rooks in a low-level American soccer league to an All-Star in the nation's major league to a contender for a World Cup roster spot.

He has developed his game to the point where he can't be written off anymore. The refinement of his game complements the fluidity of his movement. His uncanny knack for being in the right place makes him dangerous for defenses.

The U.S. team could use some instant offense. For what it will face in pool play, it would help to have a proven scorer. There's no guarantee Wondo can be that guy against world-class defenders. But there's no guarantee he can't, which is why he's still in the mix.

Being overlooked and underappreciated has fueled him for years. And with his World Cup dreams in reach, it's not crazy to think he can rise to another level.

It's not as if this level was expected.

"I saw him play as a youth player in Danville. I saw him play at De La Salle," Doyle said, "(but) 27 goals. MVP of the league. I didn't see that."

The Bay Area sports landscape is crowded with athletes you feel good about supporting: Buster Posey, Stephen Curry, Patrick Willis, Coco Crisp. Players who excel at their craft by going about it the right way, players whose likability is on par with their talent.

Wondolowski probably will never reach the level of those big stars. He may never experience their level of adoration and exposure.

But he's a local kid on the cusp of a major accomplishment. Best to get on the bandwagon now.

Read Marcus Thompson II's blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/thompson. Contact him at mthomps2@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ThompsonScribe.

online extra
Have the Earthquakes cracked into the MLS elite? Check our power rankings at www.mercurynews.com/earthquakes.

SATURDAY'S MLS OPENER
Real Salt Lake at Earthquakes, 7:30 p.m. CSNCA

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SATURDAY'S MLS OPENER
Real Salt Lake at Earthquakes, 7:30 p.m. CSNCA

inside
Earthquakes optimistic they can return to 2012 form.
PAGE 5