Since his appointment as head coach of the USMNT in July 2011, Jurgen Klinsmann has called upon over 42 players and employed numerous formations, all with very mixed results. During the USMNT’s unprecedented 12-game win streak, many of the same European and U.S.-based players were regularly used together. Based on Klinsmann’s frequent use of the 4-2-3-1 formation during World Cup Qualification and friendlies, it is safe to assume that this is his preferred alignment.
So we know what formation Klinsmann will likely use, but who will take the field as the starting 11 when the U.S. opens against Ghana in July? The following is a roster projection based on USMNT games and camps, recent club performances, and the words and actions of Klinsmann himself. 
Goalkeeper: Tim Howard
No player’s starting job is more secure than Tim Howard’s. Howard perennially ranks as one of the top keepers in the Barclay’s Premier League. For nearly a decade, Howard has been the man between the posts that the USMNT relies on. Barring any major drop of form or serious injury, Howard will serve as Klinsmann’s first-choice keeper for Brazil 2014. 
Left back: Demarcus Beasley
A career winger, Beasley has shown the type of grit, attitude, and commitment that Klinsmann desires of all his players. At left back, Beasley possesses the tenacity to defend as well as the skill to attack. He earned Klinsmann’s trust based on his exceptional performances during World Cup qualifying and rightly captained the winning Gold Cup team. His leadership and international experience will be a huge benefit for the USMNT as they compete in the World Cup.
Left center back: Matt Besler
An unknown a year ago, Besler has emerged as one of the top center backs in the MLS and started for Sporting Kansas City as they won the MLS Cup in a dramatic penalty kick shootout. Besler has been one of the USMNT’s most consistent defenders and will continue to improve his skills as the World Cup approaches.
Right center back: Omar Gonzalez
The rock of the LA Galaxy’s back line, Omar Gonzalez possess an aerial prowess unmatched by any other USMNT player. While his defending is at times inconsistent, the fact that he has developed alongside Matt Besler will ensure his starting role. 
Right back: Geoff Cameron
A jack-of-all-trades, Cameron can play numerous positions across both the defense and midfield. However, he primarily plays right back for his club team, Stoke City, where he regularly encounters some of the world’s top footballers in the BPL. As he continues to improve, particular his in attack, Cameron should solidify himself as the USMNT’s starting right back.
Left holding midfielder: Michael Bradley
Arguably the best and most indispensable player on the USMNT, Bradley will be expected to be the heart and soul of this team. His off-the-charts soccer IQ as was as his ability to defend and distribute the ball, will be essential in order for the USMNT to have any shot of making a deep run in the World Cup.
Right holding midfielder: Jermaine Jones
The “disrupter” as many like to call him, Jermaine Jones will be responsible for stopping the opposing offense in their tracks. While he has a penchant for picking up yellow cards, Jones brings with him the experience of playing against the best players in the world that no other USMNT player possesses.
Left midfielder: Fabian Johnson
A left back by trade, Johnson is one of the USMNT’s most versatile players and provides an attacking prowess unlike Demarcus Beasley. The combination of his technique, engine, and crossing ability will help provide width to the USMNT’s attack. 
Right midfielder: Landon Donovan
After his football sabbatical in early 2013, many wondered whether Landon Donovan would ever dawn the USMNT jersey again. However, his amazing run of form during the 2013 Gold Cup has brought Donovan back into Klinsmann’s good graces. The leading goal scorer in USMNT history will play his fourth World Cup and will be the of the driving factors in the USMNT’s success. His ability to run at defenders and be at the right place at the right time will be a huge boost for the USMNT.
Attacking midfielder: Clint Dempsey
Dempsey will be the driving force behind the USMNT’s attack. As the in the “hole” midfielder, Deuce will utilize his creativity and technique to drive the US attack forward, linking play between the holding midfielders and the striker. As the attacking midfielder, Dempsey will have a lot of freedom to drift inside and out in order to find little pockets of space in the opposition’s defense. While his most recent play in the MLS was disappointing, look for the Dempsey of old—the striker who could turn nothing into something—to return to lead the USMNT.
Striker: Jozy Altidore
No player has seen his stock rise and fall more than Jozy Altidore has under Klinsmann’s direction. However, Altidore’s career best eight goals for the USMNT this year has secured his a spot as the primary striker for the US. His work rate, hold-up play and movement off the ball along with his willingness to bang with opposing defenders will be essential for the USMNT to score goals. Though his play in the BPL leaves much to be desired, Altidore, at the young age of 24, will surely continue to improve in anticipation of Brazil 2014.
Other Players to Watch Out For
For the World Cup, every team is allowed to bring 23 players. While essentially all of the previously mentioned projected starting XI are assured a roster spot, the other 12 slots could go to numerous players. However, there are several players that stand out amongst the rest.
Johannsson is the player who controversially pledged his allegiance to the USMNT over Iceland, the country he had lived and grown up in. Since his introduction to the USMNT, Johannsson has only seen his stock skyrocket. Like Altidore before him, Johannsson is tearing up the Eredivise at an unbelievable rate. If his form continues, don’t be surprised if Johannsson is placed alongside Altidore. 
The 20-year-old German-American will be a staple of the USMNT’s defense for the next decade. However, for this World Cup, unless he does something unbelievable during the club season, will remain firmly behind both center backs.
Johnson has saved the USMNT from embarrassment countless times—and was given the incredible nickname “Demolition Man” by broadcaster Gus Johnson—but is not good enough to be handed a starting role in attack. Look for him to come on as a super-sub and reenergize the US attack with his arial abilities and cutting runs.
Our Best Hope
The USMNT potential starting XI and the rest of the players that comprise the World Cup roster, will arguably be the greatest USMNT ever assembled. The combination of foreign and domestic-based players as well as the genius football mind of Jurgen Klinsmann will give the USMNT it’s best chance to succeed on the world’s biggest stage. That being said, the talent gap that exists between the USMNT and other world football powers is still immense. However, this gap is slowly but surely closing, as evident in the USMNT’s historic win streak. Considering the recent World Cup Draw, it will take an immense rise in the collective effort and skill of the USMNT to get through to the Round of 16.
How to cite this page: “Projected Starting XI for Brazil 2014,” Written by Matt Darlow (2013), World Cup 2014, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp/world-cup-2014/projected-starting-xi-for-brazil-2014/ (accessed on (date)).