Road to 2014: The Brazil Board 7.0 

October, 25, 2012

Nineteen months before the next World Cup kicks off, only four U.S. national teamers -- Tim Howard, Fabian Johnson, Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey -- can be considered surefire starters in Brazil.

There are still more questions than answers. And that shouldn't come as a surprise. A lot can and will happen between now and 2014. There's far more uncertainty surrounding the squad than there was this time four years ago. Looking at the Yanks' lineup for an October 2008 qualifier against Cuba, just about any American Outlaw could have correctly predicted seven of the players who would line up against England in the team's opener at South Africa 2010.

Then again, who back then would have had MLS strikers Edson Buddle, Robbie Findley and Herculez Gomez on the final 23-man squad?

The unknowns facing Jurgen Klinsmann's team today are huge.

Is Landon Donovan really going to retire before the World Cup? Will Jozy Altidore, who has played as well for Dutch club AZ as he has poorly for the national team, work his way back into the coach's good graces? Can Stuart Holden regain his health and the form that made him one of the best midfielders in the English Premier League two seasons ago?

There are more doubts, particularly on the back line. How much longer can Klinsmann count on Carlos Bocanegra and Steve Cherundolo? Will Geoff Cameron continue to be a viable option at center back if he never plays the position with Stoke City? Can Oguchi Onyewu, who made his debut for Spanish side Malaga this week -- in the Champions League, no less -- ever return to the heart of the American defense?

Let's start with Bocanegra. The reality that the 33-year-old probably won't make it all the way to Brazil is beginning to set in. Bocanegra should still play an important role early in the final qualifying round, but finding a permanent replacement for the captain, both on the field and in the locker room, has to be Klinsmann's top priority. Cherundolo, who will also be 35 in 2014, is showing fewer signs of slowing and has a better chance of sticking around. But again, things can and will change.

Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine. He has covered American and international soccer since 2002.