The World Cup in Brazil is less than a month away and the United States team is about to embark on its final preparations right here in the Bay Area. The U.S., led by coach Jurgen Klinsmann, opens a 13-day training camp at Stanford on Wednesday.
Klinsmann's twin challenges are to trim a roster of 30 down to 23 and to make the adjustments necessary to advance out of Group G, the so-called Group of Death, which features Ghana, Portugal and Germany.
The Americans will conclude their Bay Area stay with a game against Azerbaijan at Candlestick Park on May 27.
Though some famous footballers like Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard might be spotted around the Peninsula over the coming weeks, the training camp is not open to the public.
Here's a look at where the U.S. stands one month from Brazil:
Wednesday: Training camp opens at Stanford
May 26: Public workout at Candlestick Park (5 p.m.)
May 27: exhibition vs. Azerbaijan at Candlestick Park (7 p.m.)
June 1: exhibition vs. Turkey in Harrison, N.J. (11 a.m.)
June 2: final roster (23 players) due to FIFA
June 7: exhibition vs. Nigeria in Jacksonville (3 p.m.)
June 16: World Cup vs Ghana in Natal, Brazil (3 p.m.)
June 22: World Cup vs. Portugal in Manaus, Brazil (3 p.m.)
June 26: World Cup vs. Germany in Recife, Brazil (9 a.m.)
Brad Guzan (Aston Villa)
Tim Howard (Everton)
Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla)
Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City)
John Brooks (Hertha Berlin)
Geoff Cameron (Stoke City)
Timothy Chandler (Nürnberg)
Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC)
Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy)
Clarence Goodson (Earthquakes)
Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim)
Michael Parkhurst (Columbus Crew)
DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC)
Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake)
Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes)
Michael Bradley (Toronto FC)
Joe Corona (Club Tijuana)
Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo)
Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg)
Maurice Edu (Philadelphia Union)
Julian Green (Bayern Munich)
Jermaine Jones (Besiktas)
Jozy Altidore (Sunderland)
Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna)
Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC)
Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy)
Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar)
Chris Wondolowski (Earthquakes)
These 13 players are nearly locks to make the final 23-man roster: Goalkeepers Tim Howard, Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando; defenders Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler, DaMarcus Beasley, Clarence Goodson and Geoff Cameron; midfielders Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley; and forwards Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore and Landon Donovan
These eight players are competing for the final spots on the roster: defenders John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin; midfielders Maurice Edu, Julian Green, Mix Diskerud, Brad Davis; and forwards Chris Wondolowski and Terrence Boyd.
The United States knows who will be in goal when it opens World Cup play June 16 -- stalwart Tim Howard -- but most other facets of the team are in flux, including the starting formation (4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2). The coaching staff was reshuffled recently. The back line must be solidified, especially the right and left sides. The midfield has issues to either side of Michael Bradley, and everyone wants to know which Jozy Altidore (who has had a poor season at Sunderland of the English Premiere League) will show up to training camp.
Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski is competing for a spot on the final roster. Officially, he's one of six forwards invited to Stanford. In reality, Wondo is one of two or three players dueling for the final berth up front. His knack for scoring in international competition -- including goals against South Korea and Mexico this year -- could be the difference. "He has built his own case and built it stronger and stronger,'' U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. "You give him a 1 percent chance and he wants to make it 100 percent by the end of the day. He will be one of the drivers in camp."
Landon Donovan Part IV
Landon Donovan, one of six forwards on the training camp roster, takes aim at his fourth World Cup but has never faced a challenge like the one awaiting him at Stanford: The 32-year-old took a three-month sabbatical from the game early last year. He played well upon return. While the man considered by many to be the greatest player in U.S. history would seem to be a lock, Donovan will undergo "the same evaluation process (as) everyone else and has to win his spot,'' U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said.
The Fitness Factor
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann has placed fitness (mental and physical) at the top of his priority list, and the workout schedule reflects that goal: The national team will practice twice daily for the better part of two weeks. If players can't handle the pressure of training camp -- not to mention the warm, dry air of Stanford -- they will melt under the pressure of sultry Brazil. "I want to see their approach, see their shape,'' Klinsmann said. "It's a lot about the momentum of the World Cup. They are part of the inner circle, and now they have to show it.''
Two of the most talented players on the 30-man roster are two of the youngest: midfielder Julian Green, 18, who plays for Bayern Munich's second team; and DeAndre Yedlin, 20, a fullback for the Seattle Sounders. Green is healthy after separating his shoulder against Mexico early last month. "They have tremendous upside in their development curve and going forward,'' Klinsmann said. "We'll see clearly over the next three weeks if they're ready for a World Cup or not."