USMNT prospects who could start

Zelalem, Hyndman among risers with positional opportunities on national team

Updated: September 3, 2014, 3:50 PM ET
By Adrian Melville | ESPN Insider

Charlie Crowhurst/Getty ImagesEmerson Hyndman, who was called up for the U.S.-Czech match, has impressed with Fulham.

The United States begins its path to the 2018 World Cup on Wednesday with a friendly against the Czech Republic, and after a run to the round of 16 in Brazil there is more pressure for the team to continue growing its reputation in the global football community.

The continued growth of the U.S. team begins with identifying a new crop of talent, and blending that talent with the core of the team through various international competitions leading up to the 2018 World Cup. This identification for World Cup contributors begins now, and over the next 24 months U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann will have multiple opportunities to evaluate new talent through a host of friendly matches as well as the 2015 Gold Cup, 2016 Copa America and 2016 Olympics.

The wealth of tournaments is a positive for Klinsmann, as he will need as many opportunities as possible to uncover more young prospects like Deandre Yedlin in his player pool. As this discovery process begins, Klinsmann is likely to unveil more prospect-laden rosters like the one he has brought in for the Czech Republic match, in which five players have the chance to make their international debuts.

Which current U.S. prospects could break through based on positional opportunities? Here is a look at four positions up for grabs heading into the 2018 cycle along with the prospects at each spot who have an opportunity to make an immediate impact and eventually stake a starting spot.

Left back

Incumbent: DaMarcus Beasley
Rising contenders: Greg Garza, Chris Klute

The left back position continues to be a mystery for the U.S. team, and competition for the position is wide open with a 32-year-old DaMarcus Beasley transitioning into a reduced role. Klinsmann played Fabian Johnson and current Atlas defender Edgar Castillo at left back during World Cup qualifying, then experimented with Timmy Chandler before ultimately settling on Beasley in Brazil, which indicates that there is a real depth issue there.

An intriguing candidate for the position is former U.S. U20 defender Greg Garza, who has emerged as a regular starter for Tijuana this season after making just seven appearances with the club in the 2014 Liga MX Clausura (17 games).