While Bruce Arena called up a strong roster for the World Cup qualifiers and friendlies this month, there is even more talent that didn’t make it. In most cases, the best players left off the USMNT roster are less experienced options who will likely get a chance at the CONCACAF Gold Cup in July. If they do well then, there’s a very real chance they will be part of World Cup qualifying in September and then into next year's tournament in Russia.
Here is a look at the players who aren’t on the USMNT roster now, but could break through later this year as the World Cup gets closer:
It’s been a long time coming for the English-born striker. He became an American citizen in March and instantly shot up the ranks of uncapped Americans who should get a look soon. He’s scored double digits since he became a regular starter for Sporting Kansas City in 2014 and he’s off to a decent start this season. He’s a fast, physical player who likes to pester back lines and get into good attacking spots. While Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood figure to be strikers ahead of him in a classic No. 9-type role, Dwyer could bump others, like Jordan Morris, down the depth chart.
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Of course, Dwyer isn’t the only uncapped striker lying in wait. Ramirez has enjoyed a breakout run of form since his Minnesota United club made the jump to MLS this season. He has proven that his skills translate into the top flight after he had success in NASL, so the next question is how he’d do on the international level. He’s playing with a ton of confidence right now and he’s tied for third on the MLS goal-scoring chart. He has an uncanny ability to get into the right scoring spots and he might be able to make himself a real option if he gets a chance at the Gold Cup.
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For the first time in a while, the USMNT has a lot of decent strikers and one of them is Sapong. It will be a little tough for him to break in, partly because of the competition at the striker spot. But in part because his current scoring rate doesn’t jibe with how the striker has typically done in MLS and may be hard to count on. Sapong has also been on the USMNT radar before, so Arena may look at his new options first, but Sapong can fight his way into consideration. If Sapong can keep scoring goals, that's what'll matter.
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While Roldan is not a player that’s in the spotlight with the Seattle Sounders, he is an excellent part of the supporting cast in the central midfield. The 21-year-old continues to develop his game and show he can be a player who is effective on both sides of the ball. He’s good at looking for ways to get involved and support the players around him, and he has experience around various central midfield roles and on the wing. Plus, there's no such thing as too many good central midfield options.
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His loan to Rangers has gone swimmingly -- he has not only gotten regular playing time, but he’s become a crucial piece of the attack there. Both in setting up his teammates and in scoring himself, Hyndman has shown good composure in the Scottish Premiership. The question is whether he is ready for a tougher challenge and the Gold Cup would be a good litmus test for where the 21-year-old’s progress stands, that is if he's recovered from a foot injury and ready to play.
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While Arena as plenty of central midfielders right now, he can use the Gold Cup to refine his depth chart. Williams is a box-to-box midfielder at Reading and, at 28, he has a good amount of experience under his belt. He offers less potential for growth than a guy like Emerson Hyndman does, but Williams can't be discounted as a potential backup who is ready to slot in as needed.
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It was a bit of a surprise that Zimmerman didn’t make the roster for the USMNT’s upcoming matches, but he was injured in a match hours after the roster came out and FC Dallas later announced he would be out six weeks with an MCL strain, so it was just as well. Zimmerman is a big, physical center back who, next to Matt Hedges, makes up half of the best centerback pairing in MLS. As long as Zimmerman is healthy, he should be at the Gold Cup with Hedges where Arena can see how well the FC Dallas duo slots in for the USMNT.
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Although he’s mainly a right back, Lichaj can play on both sides and his versatility may make him worth looking at. The USMNT has gotten a big boost from Jorge Villafana becoming a left back option under Arena, but lack of depth at the position and at right back is still a concern. Arena seemed to see Timmy Chandler as the next right back behind DeAndre Yedlin, but for some reason he’s often struggled with the USMNT and he has left this camp injured anyway. Lichaj is a player who could take over that role.
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This is a bit more of a wildcard, but it’s hard to argue with the impact Ike Opara has had on Sporting Kansas City this season. He’s been arguably the best defender in MLS so far this year, commanding the area around the box and shutting down chances in open play. The USMNT has depth at center back, but behind Geoff Cameron and John Brooks, no one has been able to stand out. Opara has always been excellent when fit.