Every World Cup has a neutral’s favourite; a team that perhaps upsets the odds or shows genuine love for the beautiful game, eleven players that offer you a moment of joy in FIFA’s corrupt circus. And the 2014 tournament belonged to the United States of America.
Not fancied in a group containing Ghana, Germany and Portugal, the USA managed to qualify in second-place, which included an undeserved and narrow 1-0 defeat to eventual winners Germany – Jurgen Klinsmann’s side were the better team for 90 minutes.
It felt like something of a turning point in US soccer, with the world of football realising that US soccer was so much more than the odd household name of Brad Friedel or Clint Dempsey.
With the 2018 World Cup fast approaching, could we see any of these current uncapped Americans running out in Russia?
Clint Irwin – Toronto FC
31 shutouts from just over 100 MLS games is an impressive record. Image Source: Twitter
Desevio Payne – FC Groningen
It's not often America gets a player in the top tier of one of Europe's main leagues. It's only a matter of time before Payne has an USMNT cap to his name. Image Source: Twitter
Cameron Carter-Vickers – Tottenham Hotspur
If the centre-back is worthy of the Pochettino arm around the shoulder pose treatment, then he must be special. Image Source: Twitter
Tim Parker – Vancouver Whitecaps
2016 was a great year for the defender; Parker finished fourth in MLS in clearances (155) and fifth in blocks (23). Image Source: Twitter
Keegan Rosenberry – Philadelphia Union
The right-back is knocking on the door of a call-up, having recently been cut from Bruce Arena's 31-man USMNT training camp in January. Image Source: Twitter
Gedion Zelalem – Arsenal
"He is a creative player and he can create a spark, an opening with his passing, his vision through the lines. If he manages to develop his physique and keep his qualities, he can be a very important player. Let's hope he will do it." If he's good enough for Arsene Wenger then he's good enough for us. Image Source: Twitter
Sean Davis New York Red Bulls
NYRB have the perfect replacement for recently-departed club captain, Dax McCarty. Image Source: CBS New York
Quincy Amarikwa – San Jose Earthquakes
Amarikwa has notched 24 goals and 17 assists in 89 MLS appearances. The United States soccer fans will be hoping the 28-year-old makes a clean recovery from his major knee surgery. Image Source: Twitter
Kelyn Rowe – New England Revolution
Versatility is an underrated trait, and Rowe's ability to play winger, attacking-midfielder or centre-mid would be very handy for the USA. Image Source: Twitter
Patrick Mullins – DC United
“His work ethic on both sides of the ball, positional awareness and nose for the goal affect the outcome of games week after week” United General Manager Dave Kasper said. Image Source: Twitter
Christian Ramirez – Minnesota United
51 goals in three seasons for Minnesota in the NASL. But can the striker prove his worth in Major League Soccer? If so, Bruce Arena will be on the phone. Image Source: Twitter
SEE ALSO: Christian Pulisic will become America’s GOAT
The continual growth of Major League Soccer, fuelled by the addition of Minnesota United and Atlanta United to the new season, has seen the standard of play increase greatly – how long until the league gets the respect and credit it deserves?
We aren’t far off from signings like DeAndre Yedlin to Tottenham Hotspur – where he was sadly criminally underused – becoming the norm rather than one-offs.