Gregg_berhalter_-_asn_top_-_isi_-_usmnt_in_cincinnati_-_may_2022_-_john_dorton_-_2 John Dorton/ISI Photos
USMNT analysis

Many Olympic players feature as Berhalter names 25 for USMNT January camp

ASN's Brian Sciaretta breaks down the USMNT January camp with his thoughts on the roster - which has a big emphasis of Olympic eligible players. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
January 05, 2024
12:10 PM

ON FRIDAY, United States men’s national team manager Gregg Berhalter named his 25 player roster for the annual January camp that will run from Jan. 8-16 in Orlando and conclude with a friendly against Slovenia on Jan. 20 at Toyota Field in San Antonio, Texas.

When announcing the friendly in November, Berhalter was quoted stressing that this camp was going to provide a look at the next generation and most of the players on this roster are young and have only limited experience.

As many know, the January camp does not fall in a FIFA international window and clubs are not required to release players. Historically, the camp involves only domestic-based players, players from Scandinavian leagues which are on break, or young players at European clubs who are not part of the current first-team plans.

Here is the roster along with some thoughts.



(Club/Country; Caps/Goals)

GOALKEEPERS (3): Drake Callender (Inter Miami; 0/0), Roman Celentano (FC Cincinnati; 0/0), Patrick Schulte (Columbus Crew; 0/0)

DEFENDERS (10): Nathan Harriel (Philadelphia Union; 0/0), DeJuan Jones (New England Revolution; 7/0), Shaq Moore (Nashville SC; 17/1), Ian Murphy (FC Cincinnati; 0/0), Jackson Ragen (Seattle Sounders; 0/0), Miles Robinson (FC Cincinnati; 27/3), James Sands (New York City FC; 13/0), Nkosi Tafari (FC Dallas; 0/0), John Tolkin (New York Red Bulls; 3/0), Caleb Wiley (Atlanta United; 1/0)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Joshua Atencio (Seattle Sounders; 0/0), Aziel Jackson (St. Louis City; 0/0), Jack McGlynn (Philadelphia Union; 0/0), Aidan Morris (Columbus Crew; 4/0), Timmy Tillman (LAFC; 0/0), Sean Zawadzki (Columbus Crew; 0/0)

FORWARDS (6): Esmir Bajraktarevic (New England Revolution; 0/0), Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes; 8/1), Bernard Kamungo (FC Dallas; 0/0), Diego Luna (Real Salt Lake; 0/0), Duncan McGuire (Orlando City; 0/0), Brian White (Vancouver Whitecaps/CAN; 0/0)


Heavy on the Olympic team 

A dominant theme here is the Olympics as the U.S. U-23 team will participate in the Olympic games for the first time since 2008. That team has had two camps already and there are just two more to go before the games begin. This camp is not a dedicated U-23 camp, but Berhalter has named U-23 head coach Marko Mitrovic to his staff for this camp indicating it will be an important part of that team’s preparation.

In total, 13 of the 25 players are eligible for the Olympic team (Schulte, Harriel, Tolkin, Wiley, Atencio, Jackson, McGlynn, Morris, Bajarktarevic, Cowell, Kamungo, Luna, and McGuire). Esmir Bajraktarevic is the youngest player on the team, and he is even eligible for both the 2025 U-20 World Cup team and the U-23 team for 2028 Olympic games as well.

As always, building the Olympic team is tricky given that clubs are not required to release players for the tournament.


Top U-23 team players


The Olympic team will draw heavily from MLS but many of the top U-23 players Mitrovic hopes to have in Paris are based in Europe. This includes players such as Paxten Aaronson, Gaga Slonina, Kevin Paredes, Tanner Tesssmann, Gianluca Busio, Bryan Reynolds, and Rokas Pukstas.

But there are key U-23 players in this camp and this time will be very important for them to continue with that preparation. Specifically, here are the important U-23 players to watch in this camp.

Aidan Morris: The Crew midfielder was a key player in the Crew’s MLS Cup triumph. He now has two MLS Cups to his name and could be a player in line for a transfer in 2024.

Duncan McGuire: With Ricardo Pepi and Folarin Balogun with the full national team despite being U-23 eligible, McGuire is the top age-eligible Olympic center forward in the player pool after a 15-goal season across all competitions.

Patrick Schulte: Is competing with Gaga Slonina for the No. 1 goalkeeper position on the U-23 team. Schulte came up big in the playoffs for the Crew and helped the team win the title.

John Tolkin: the RBNY left back could also be in line for a move to Europe in 2024 and he was trending upward throughout the 2023 season.

Cade Cowell: The San Jose winger has been up and down during the early stages in his career, but his best moments do show some talent. But he could be on the verge of getting passed over by other U-23 wing options like Benard Kamungo or Diego Luna. He’s probably on the top list of U-23 players, for now, but he needs a big camp.

Diego Luna: The RSL playmaker had a strong run in 2023 where he had a good U-20 World Cup and he produced down the stretch for Real Salt Lake. He was unable to attend the first two U-23 camps, but Mitrovic has told ASN he is in the team’s plans. This is a good start for him to working with Mitrovic.


Overage options


Another thing to watch in this camp is if players can emerge as overage options for the Olympic team. Per Olympic rules, the teams are allowed to include three overage players on the U-23 rosters. On this team, two players stand out as potential options – Miles Robinson and James Sands.

The U-23 team is thin in central defense and Sands and Robinson would bring experience to that position while Sands can also play in the midfield. The benefit of them playing in MLS is the increased likelihood that both would be released for the tournament.

But in addition to those players, it would also not be a surprise to see players like Jackson Ragen or Nkosi Tafari emerge as overage options if they have a strong camp. This is particularly true if players like Robinson or Walker Zimmerman are needed for the Copa America.


USMNT depth positions


Beyond the Olympic team, there are players not U-23 eligible who have a USMNT opportunities moving forward.

Drake Callender: The Inter Miami goalkeeper had a good season in 2023 and his rise comes during a time of questions surrounding the USMNT goalkeeping depth. Matt Turner remains the USMNT top keeper and he continues to have a tenuous grip on the top job at Nottingham Forest. But after him, Ethan Horvath isn’t playing at all for Forest. Zack Steffen hasn’t played in a long time and is back with Colorado. Gaga Slonina is a teenager and is getting bombarded with shots for a Eupen team in a relegation battle in Belgium. The team needs more goalkeepers and Callender has a real chance.

DeJuan Jones: The New England-based Jones is a right-footed left back but he can play on either side of the field. The USMNT has a great left back in Antonee Robinson. Sergino Dest is very talented but suspended for the Nations League semifinal and had a tough year internationally in 2023. After those two, things are not set in stone. Joe Scally is the backup right back. Kristoffer Lund has the backup left back spot but continued progress from Jones, Tolkin, or even Caleb Wiley can make for competition.

Jackson Ragen: U.S. youth national teams have not been successful recently in producing top young central defenders. Only three U-23 age-eligible centerbacks start in MLS, a European first division, or a top European second division. Those players are Maximillian Dietz at Greuther Furth, George Campbell at Montreal, and Jalen Neal (who has been injured since July for the LA Galaxy). This opens the door for slightly older players to compete to force their way into the mix in the coming years as players like Tim Ream, John Brooks, and Walker Zimmerman age out. Ragen has a chance given his strong performances with Seattle.


Notable omissions


As with any camp, there are some players who I am surprised are not there.

Among the U-23 eligible players, Brian Gutierrez at Chicago is a surprising omission, and it comes on the heels of him being left off the U-23 roster for November’s camp. While his final production has been lacking a little bit, he was one of the best U-20 eligible players in the 2023 MLS season.

Benjamin Cremaschi had a good year in 2023 when he got to play alongside Lionel Messi. This saw him earn his first USMNT cap in September as well as be part of the U-23 camps in October and November. Given the track he was on in the second half of the season, it’s surprising he wasn’t here. But he is still young and is eligible for the 2025 U-20 team and the 2028 U-23 Olympic team.

Cole Bassett ended the season on a strong note with a bad Colorado team. But he had a good camp under Berhalter in 2022 when he scored the winner against Bosnia and was part of the November U-23 camp roster.

Zack Steffen has seen his stock fade after he was once the USMNT No. 1 and has a long relationship with Gregg Berhalter dating back to when both were in Columbus.

Djordje Mihailovic is also reportedly heading to Colorado after a tough run with AZ Alkmaar. But perhaps this camps comes to soon, or maybe Berhalter just wanted to look at other options.

Chris Brady is the top goalkeeper for Chicago and has experience with the U.S. U-20 and U-23 team but with him not involved in this camp, it might be a sign that Slonina and Schulte are the top U-23 options.

Post a comment