Monday, May 12, 2014

Sporting Kansas City's Matt Besler and Graham Zusi make preliminary U.S. World Cup squad

Posted By on Mon, May 12, 2014 at 4:08 PM

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To the great surprise of almost no one following the United States men's soccer team, Sporting Kansas City defender Matt Besler and midfielder Graham Zusi were named to the 30-man World Cup roster on Monday.

That list of players will be trimmed to 23 by June 2. Besler and Zusi are expected to make that cut, too, and travel to Brazil for soccer's biggest show.

Sporting Kansas City was one of three Major League Soccer teams to have two players named to the preliminary World Cup roster (Seattle and Real Salt Lake were the others).

Both Zusi and Besler will likely play prominent roles in the U.S. World Cup team and may make the starting roster when the team plays Ghana on June 16. But Zusi on Monday played down the likelihood that he's crack the starting 11.

"I don't allow myself to think that far ahead, to solidify myself in the 11 on the field," Zusi told reporters at a press conference at Sporting Kansas City's downtown offices.

But Zusi has been a key player for the U.S. midfield in recent matches; he notched an assist on a Michael Bradley goal in an exhibition match against Mexico on April 2.

Besler played in that game too, as well as many other recent tilts for the national team. He may anchor the United States' defense, viewed largely as the biggest question mark for the national squad heading into the 2014 World Cup.

"I think there's a question mark because there's not a lot of experience [among U.S. defensemen]," Besler says. "As a team, we don't look into that at all. We don't read criticisms."

The United States ranks No. 14 in the FIFA world rankings. But the U.S. plays the toughest group in the World Cup, having to go up against Germany, Portugal and Ghana. Each of those teams plays one another once; the top two teams advance to a tournament-style knock out round.

For more on Besler, read last year's profile by Jonathan Bender in The Pitch.

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