U.S. men's soccer is headed to Brazil next summer for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
That much is determined, however it doesn't make Friday's second-to-last USMNT World Cup qualifier against Jamaica any less important. And Real Salt Lake's Kyle Beckerman will probably take the game even more seriously than most.
With midfielder Michael Bradley injured, Beckerman could start. This is key for the RSL captain, since an opportunity for more playing time will give him a chance to further prove his worth on the U.S. team.
A FIFA.com feature on Beckerman published earlier this week said Beckerman's stock rose over the summer from the extended minutes the midfielder played during the CONCACAFF Gold Cup tournament.
“You can’t find a better pro than him,” coach Jurgen Klinsmann told FIFA.com. “He’s totally committed and focused. Every time he steps on the field you know what you’ll get.”
Getting much-deserved recognition on an international level hasn't come easy for Beckerman, though. It's been a long road and a long time coming. At last, Beckerman is on track to get the nod to compete in his first-ever World Cup finals. It's his dream becoming a reality.
“I just need to take it one call-up at a time and take care of my body," Beckerman told FIFA.com. "But it’s a dream. It’s everyone’s dream who plays this game.”
RSL keeper and teammate of Beckerman, Nick Rimando, also made the trip to Kansas City, but is not likely to play, with keepers Tim Howard and Brad Guzan also called up.
FINISH STRONG: Although Friday's qualifier against Jamaica doesn’t have direct implications on the USMNT's World Cup finals berth, Klinsmann is predicted to play his best men.
Rant Sports writer Bryan Zarpentine's Thursday article said, "It would be foolish to take their foot off the gas pedal." Considering the roll USA is on after winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup and beating Mexico in its home stadium to secure a spot in the World Cup, Zarpentines words seem true. The U.S. cannot let up now.
Klinsmann wants to clinch the top spot in the group and head into the World Cup as a recognizable force. In order to do that, the USMNT must play its best soccer Friday against Jamaica and Tuesday at Panama.
ODD KICKOFF TIME: The Jamaica-U.S. match is set for 5:30 p.m. locally in Kansas City, 4:30 p.m. MDT. The time is odd for a big game, according to NBC Sports Pro Soccer Talk writer Steve Davis.
What it comes down to is TV scheduling, and U.S. soccer spokesman Neil Buethe told NBC Sports the organization talked to ESPN about several options, but settled on the 5:30 kickoff on ESPN to maximize total viewership.
Whitney O'Bannon is a new media sports writer for the Deseret News. Follow on Twitter at @whitney_oban.
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