NEW YORK (AP) — For the first time since 1990, the United States heads to the biggest football tournament on the planet with no central defenders with World Cup experience.
The reformed defense appears to be as shaky this year as it was in 2010, and coach Jurgen Klinsmann made the controversial decision to drop career scoring leader Landon Donovan.
Michael Bradley, son of former coach Bob Bradley, has become the key figure in the American player pool, which has seen five German-Americans selected for the squad by Bob Bradley's successor, Jurgen Klinsmann.
Here are five players to watch:
Tim Howard is having perhaps his best season for Everton.
The 35-year-old goalkeeper, preparing for his second World Cup as the No. 1 choice, will be counted on to blunt the attack of talented opponents such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Mario Gomez.
Clint Dempsey, now 31, struggled for goals for a year with Tottenham and Seattle before a spurt with the Sounders this spring. Dempsey, who replaced Carlos Bocanegra as the American captain, can be deployed as a striker in a 4-4-2 or as a withdrawn forward in a 4-2-3-1.
The son of former United States coach Bob Bradley, 26-year-old midfielder Michael Bradley has become the most influential player on the national team.
Will his January transfer from Roma to Toronto cause a drop in sharpness?
Still only 24, Jozy Altidore seemed to have his breakout season in 2012-13 when he scored 31 goals in 41 matches for AZ Alkmaar in the Dutch league.
But Altidore had only two goals in 38 games this season for Sunderland, leading some to question whether he can lead the American attack.
Geoff Cameron spent most of the season at right back for Stoke, but Klinsmann likes him more in the center paired with Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez. Will be counted on to help thwart Cristiano Ronaldo.