All-time leading scorer Landon Donovan and defender Oguchi Onyewu head the list of 23 players named in the United States squad for next month's CONCACAF Gold Cup, announced Thursday by coach Jurgen Klinsman.
The Americans are seeking their fifth title in the biennial North American regional football tournament to be staged on home soil. The winners and the 2015 champions will meet to decide a berth in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup.
But more importantly, players like Donovan and Onyewu will have a chance to impress Klinsmann ahead of the FIFA World Cup qualifying matches, which continue in September, and next year's finals in Brazil.
"Players that are representing us in this Gold Cup, they clearly know that this a huge opportunity to prove their value and their case to the coaching staff one year prior to the World Cup," Klinsmann said.
"So, two big things, one is to win the competition and two, allow the players to build their case for the World Cup."
Donovan took a four-month break from football after helping the Los Angeles Galaxy win last year's Major League Soccer title. He returned to work with the Galaxy in late March but this will be his first time on national duty since last August when he played 45 minutes in a 1-0 victory over Mexico.
"When Landon came back in the end of March after the long break, he needed time to get back in a rhythm, get back in shape and work on his game again," Klinsmann said. "I think now the process is on a good roll.
"He's getting sharper every game and every week. We've watched his games and believe now is a good time to get him back into the national team and give him the opportunity to prove his point."
Donovan's long road back
But, Klinsmann said, Donovan knows that players who have helped lift USA to the top of the six-team qualifying table have an edge over him for a trip to Brazil.
"He knows that the group that played the World Cup qualifiers is ahead of the curve and have a very strong position right now, and that he's been observed by us and has to rebuild his case," Klinsmann said.
"We have all respect for what he has done in the past, but sports are about the present and about the future, and that's what we are building on. We are really happy to have him back in the group, and he has the opportunity now to show where he's at."
Onyewu is included for the first time since June last year, when he played as a substitute in a 3-1 victory over Antigua. "The door is always open," Klinsmann said. "You never shut the door in soccer to players, no matter what difficult stretch they are going through with their club teams.
"This is a good way to show them that even though they went through tough moments with their clubs, we always kept things open."
The Americans were drawn in Group C of the CONCACAF Gold Cup and will face Costa Rica, Cuba and Belize when the group matches get underway on 9 July.
CONCACAF Gold Cup USA Squad:
Goalkeepers: Hamid (DC United), Johnson (Chicago Fire), Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
Defenders: Ashe (Houston Dynamo), Beasley (Puebla), Beltran (Real Salt Lake), Castillo (Club Tijuana), Goodson (Brondby), Onyewu (Malaga), Fiscal (Puebla), Parkhurst (Augsburg)
Midfielders: Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Bedoya (Helsinborg), Corona (Club Tijuana), Diskerud (Rosenborg), Gatt (Molde), Holden (Bolton), Torres (Tigres)
Forwards: Bruin (Houston Dynamo), Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Gomez (Club Tijuana), McInerney (Philadelphia Union), Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)