As Major League Soccer gradually becomes a more regular talent producer for the national team, as well as for clubs worldwide, the league is also more thoroughly mined for talent by the USSF and foreign leagues. American soccer, in turn, still depends on college for a decent amount of its talent.
That means that every year, a few players emerge from the university ranks to excel in MLS. Those late bloomers inevitably move up toward the national team. Clint Dempsey is the ultimate example of a former collegiate athlete made good, but other national teamers such as Graham Zusi, Michael Parkhurst and Omar Gonzalez provide further evidence of the trend in U.S. soccer.
So who are the next young MLS players today who could follow that path, finding their way into USMNT contention in the coming years after emerging from college to flourish in MLS? Given the needs of the national team going forward, we have some guesses.
AJ Soares, CB, New England Revolution
Since taking over the national team, Jurgen Klinsmann has been on a search for the eventual center back replacements for veterans Carlos Bocanegra and Oguchi Onyewu. He's got a pretty decent stable in Gonzalez, Geoff Cameron, Tim Ream and Clarence Goodson, but the pool could certainly use some depth.
All four of those future hopes developed their games in college and MLS before attracting overseas interest. Since center backs naturally mature a little more slowly, given the responsibility they assume on the field, college-matured, MLS-refined players are a good fit at the position for the U.S.