Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Gedion Zelalem among 12 prospects who could have impact at next World Cup

The exciting 2014 World Cup run for the United States has come to an end, and manager Jurgen Klinsmann now must go through the exercise of retooling his roster to be ready for the next four-year cycle. Klinsmann's role as technical director now becomes the focal point of discussion, as the U.S. knows that it needs upgrades in certain positions (forward, attacking midfield, left back), while it also must start the transition process in other key parts of the field.
With the Gold Cup, Olympics and Copa America tournament all taking place over the next two years, Klinsmann will be evaluating a wide variety of players in a number of different roles leading up to the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign. This will not be a task Klinsmann takes on alone, as improved resources within U.S. soccer now outfit the manager with 10 full-time scouts and more than 100 part-time scouts. And while names such as DeAndre Yedlin and Julian Green are expected to provide more leadership in the next World Cup cycle, there are many other candidates rising through the U.S. system who you might not know about yet.
Here are 12 rising U.S. stars -- some starting to creep on the radar and others largely unknown -- who could make names for themselves at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, if not before.
Gedion Zelalem | Age: 17 | Position: Midfielder | Club: Arsenal
In his search for players who can fill out the 2018 roster, Klinsmann will undoubtedly continue to scour the globe in search of more dual-national players. Perhaps the best product of that group is 17-year-old Arsenal product Gedion Zalelem, who lived in the U.S. from ages 9 to 15 and recently turned down an invitation to join the U-17 German national team in order to keep his international options open. (Zelalem is in the process of becoming a U.S. citizen.)
Similar to Julian Green, Zelalem is a quick, creative player who made an impression at his club's 2013-14 preseason camp. Zelalem also made an appearance in Arsenal's fourth-round FA Cup win over Coventry, signaling that his future could be as bright as Green's if each player continues to impress with his respective European club.

Luis Gil | 20 | Midfielder | Real Salt Lake
Gil has been a creative force with the youth national teams over the last few years, and at just 20 years old, he already has five years of professional experience under his belt. The talent and burgeoning attacking instincts that Gil showed as a teenage prospect are likely to grow at Real Salt Lake, and Gil's presence as a leader at the youth national team level is something that can lead him to a bright future with the senior team.
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