Implications of shortened January camp 

October, 31, 2012

It's jokingly known as Camp Cupcake, but make no mistake about it: The national team's annual January get-together has long been a vital offseason proving ground for young MLS players and Scandinavia-based Americans.

So when word broke last week that U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann wasn't planning to scrap next year's edition -- as an AP story had suggested -- a number of aspiring Yanks undoubtedly met the news with a sigh of relief.

Still, after speaking with Klinsmann, ESPN analyst Alexi Lalas reported that the number of invites extended in early 2013 could be limited to players the coach thinks have a legitimate shot of playing in the Feb. 6 World Cup qualifier. The decision won't be made until after a Nov. 7 draw determines the national team's 10-game Hexagonal schedule, but it's hard to find fault with prioritizing a game that counts.

"There's an immediate need for him to come to some conclusions on who his players are and what his team is going to look like," Lalas, speaking to the blog last week, said of Klinsmann. "He can't be experimenting and thinking long-term right now."

As it stands, there are no plans to play a game between the trip to Russia on Nov. 14 and the final-round opener -- not that that's a problem.

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