23 TICKETS TO SOUTH AFRICA
RECAPS
EXTRA TIME
Monday, September 14, 2009
Jonathan Daniel/Getty
Jozy is a lock
Since first launching it 2005, we've seen 23 Tickets become our most popular feature - so much so, that we've now seen ESPN shamelessly rip off our format. Never fear, though, nothing is ever as good as the original and we're back this month with wholesale changes.

Last time out, we deviated from our normal pattern, and handed out the tickets as we would have if we were in charge.

Now we're back to the regular routine, and prognosticating who we believe head coach Bob Bradley will bring along - assuming he can manage to get the US to South Africa.

Booted from the plane are a host of players headlined by Freddy Adu, DaMarcus Beasely and Heath Pearce, while Kenny Cooper and Clarence Goodson grab the final two seats over Eddie Johnson and Jonathan Bornstein.

If you agree, disagree or somewhere in between, use our comment feature at the bottom of the article to share your thoughts.

PACK YOUR BAGS, BOYS
Jozy Altidore - F, Sunderland (England)
Hoof it to Jozy will be the theme at Hull this campaign. (RF) The kid doesn't seem to be fading. (BL)
Carlos Bocanegra - D, Rangers (Scotland) on loan from Racing Santander (Spain)
He won't have too many more stinkers like he did against Mexico. (CW) Either at center of left back, he'll be an asset. (RF)
Clint Dempsey - M/F, Fulham (England)
Has Houdini-like ability to appear out of nowhere and make a big play. (IH) Hopefully he doesn't relax after his contract extension with Fulham. (RF)
Landon Donovan - M/F, Los Angeles Galaxy (USA)
The one indispensable American field player. (BL) Hope we get Confederations Cup Landon and not World Cup 06 Landon. (IH)
Tim Howard - GK, Everton (England)
Unless he breaks both his arms, he is the #1 keeper. (IH) No brainer. (BS)
Oguchi Onyewu - D, Sheffield Wednesday (England)
Any yank who plays for AC Milan gets the auto invite. (AB) Even if he warms the bench in Italy, he's still our best center back. (DS)
Charlie Davies - F, Randers FC (Denmark)
What a wonderful last few months for this former Eagle. (RF) On his way to being the most dangerous forward to wear a US jersey. (IH)
Michael Bradley - M, Roma (Italy)
As long as the attitude is in line. (AB) Beginning to display a worrying tendency of disappearing from games. (BL)

NEARLY A LOCK
Brad Guzan - GK, Aston Villa (England)
Bob's boys wouldn't miss a beat with Brad. (AB) Looked great in the Confederations Cup appearance. (IH)
Jay DeMerit - D, Watford (England)
I hope that playing for mediocre Watford won't effect his mentality. (CW) Everyone's favorite former pub leaguer provides a solid presence in the back. (AB)
Benny Feilhaber - M, New England Revolution (USA)
Denmark has put the swerve back in his step. (RF) His hot and cold play has been mostly hot of late. (BL)
Jonathan Spector - D, Birmingham City (England)
It's all looking good Johnny, now please just stay healthy! (DS) Showed he can step up when needed. (AV)

FAIRLY SAFE BET
Steve Cherundolo - D, Hannover 96 (Germany)
Getting less playing time, but he's still a solid vet. (BS) Showed he belongs in the hunt, even after a long injury spell. (DS)
Jermaine Jones - M, Schalke 04 (Germany)
Hopefully he can live up to his hype. (AV) Fortunately the time is near. (DS)
Jose Francisco Torres - M, Tigres UANL (Mexico)
He's going to be picked, but Bradley playing him is a different story. (AV) The fact he can play on left is huge. Not part of CM logjam. (BS)

IN A BATTLE
Stuart Holden - M, Bolton Wanderers (England)
A great Gold Cup has moved him into the mix and into Bradley's sights. (DS) His versatility, hustle, and crossing have made him a good option of the bench. (BL)
- F, () on loan from ()
Will the coaching staff ever realize he is not the next Brian McBride? (IH) Can easily drop off the radar. (AV)
Maurice Edu - M, Stoke City (England)
Is as skilled on the field as he is off it... (AV) ...but has to prove himself again after his injury. (BS)
Ricardo Clark - M, Stabæk (Norway)
Only if Bob Bradley brings three defensive mids... Who am I kidding? Of course he'll bring three. Hell, if he could figure out a way to play them all at the same time he would. (CW)

WORK TO DO
Edgar Castillo - D/M, Tijuana (Mexico)
You begged, we forgave you, now you'd better live up to the hype... (DS) We will see soon where he stands. (BS)
Kasey Keller - GK, Seattle Sounders (USA)
Experience and being a good teammate gets the nod. (RF) If for no other reason than to get some Slipknot on the team plane. (CW)
Kenny Cooper - F, Portland Timbers (USA)
I'm not sure if he's winning me over, or if I'm just fed up with the other options... (CW) A year in Germany does the body good. (RF)
Clarence Goodson - D, Brøndby (Denmark)
Outside of the Mexico debacle, liked what he did in the Gold Cup. (AB) It's between Clarence and Chad Marshall for the fourth center back slot. I'm going with the guy who plays in Europe. (CW)
MOVING UP

Alejandro Bedoya - Has become a regular starter for Orebro. Game is on the rise. 2010 might be a breakout year. (AB)

Chad Marshall - A serviceable backup. (BL) Has overtaken Danny Califf in the pecking order. (CW)

Michael Orozco - Has started the latest Mexican tournament en fuego and should earn some looks after the next rounds of qualifiers. (CW)

MOVING DOWN

Freddy Adu - I still have some faith but the coming months at Belenenses will make or break his chance. (DS)

Jonathan Bornstein - He may try hard, but he is simply not international quality. (CW)

Sach Kljestan - Perhaps his hat-trick really was a fluke... (RF)

OTHER BUBBLE BATTLERS

Danny Califf, Conor Casey, Mikkel Diskerud, DaMarcus Beasley, Marcus Hahnemann, Frankie Hejduk, Eddie Johnson, Michael Parkhurst, Heath Pearce, Troy Perkins, Luis Robles, Robbie Rogers

note: Yanks Abroad's Arch Bell, Rich Fidler, Isaac Heath, Brent Latham, Brian Sciaretta, David Smith, Andrew Vorce and Chad Winger compiled this feature.
mwc
Monday September 14, 2009 4:39 pm
Ilya -- Agree on Hejduk and I was never a Hejduk fan when he was younger. (Also, this 23 Tickets format appears to have been heavily borrowed from by Freedman's Thow-Ins on SI.com 9/6/09)
Dan
Monday September 14, 2009 4:00 pm
@ Jones:

He's not recovering as well as Schalke had hoped. Still can't train without a pain in his leg. Also, the German FA is dawdling over his clearance--are they thinking about an 11th-hour ploy to cap-tie him? Clark gets it if Jones doesn't.

@ Keller:

I doubt they'd take him during the MLS season. I could see him as part of the coaching staff for 2014, though.

@ Bedoya:

Either him or Diskeruud should come along. It seems to me that WC squads routinely include raw young talent. They're more hungry for the ball late in the game; they've got more to prove. Whichever one can handle the nerves better (Diskeruud? U-20 WC?) should get it.

@ Goodison:

Personally, I prefer Marshall, and I think Bob does too.

@ Adu:

Unless he is magic for Belenenses, I can't imagine a good reason why they'd take him over the likes of Holden or Torres. If Rogers can't get an invite, Adu surely can't.

@ Castillo:

Bold prediction. I think he'll be a disruption to team chemistry. I don't think he's got too many allies in the US MNT pool just yet. Assuming he gets the call-up, we'll see how this plays out vs. Costa Rica & Honduras.
holycalamity
Monday September 14, 2009 2:52 pm
"don't see Keller as the third goalkeeper -- He's over the hill and will be in his 40's by June 2010."

Also, Bradley will not take an MLS keeper as the #3, since whoever is picked will never see playing time.

asanji - Question: how does one create a list of 23 players one doesn't know about?
cfig
Monday September 14, 2009 1:11 pm
Good list overall, though I'd say Holden is pretty much a lock at this point and probably ahead of Torres given the amount of playing time he's seen recently. I can see Cooper possibly overtaking Ching at the third striker spot, and I'd love to see Diskerud get some looks in the spring if he does well at the U-20 WC. I like the idea of bringing Rogers along for his pace as a possible late match sub, but right now he looks to rate behind Holden and Torres as late match midfield substitutes and may just not have a spot at this point.
DeliBelly
Monday September 14, 2009 12:28 pm
Love the feature. I mostly agree with the first 20 or so choices, but I have some nit-picking over the names toward the end of the list.

I don't see Keller as the third goalkeeper -- He's over the hill and will be in his 40's by June 2010. I'd rather see the #3 goalie slot go to Perkins, Hahneman, or even David Yelldell who has been very solid playing in the German second division.

I don't expect to see Alejandro Bedoya in contention for one of the 23 places. UEFA ranks the Swedish league as 24th best in Europe (behind the likes of Cyprus & Israel). Unless Bedoya moves to to a more competitive league in the January 2010 transfer window (probably unlikely, since there didn't seem to be many rumors during the summer 2009 transfer window), I don't see him realistically having a shot.

Thanks for giving a shout out to Michael Orozco. The guy has been getting tons of playing time and putting in solid performances in the Mexican league, but for some reason doesn't get noticed.
BobbyR64
Monday September 14, 2009 12:00 pm
Wow, giving Jones a ticket on the plane when he hasn't even suited up yet. Let's hope he's as good as we all pray he is.

Bobeto, I totally agree regarding Castillo. We have no left back, so he's actually first in my prayers before Jones.

Ching will make it because he must give BB a warm, fuzzy feeling. I can't think of another explanation for sticking with him when there are many other viable options, including guys who actually score goals. I think BB is allergic to Kenny Cooper; can somebody send him some Claritin?
Eric
Monday September 14, 2009 11:49 am
Seems to me that Marshall is ahead of Goodson. In fact I would place him "In a Battle" at the expense of Edu, who drops down at the expense of Goodson or Cooper. Edu won't get the call for the next round even if he is healthy, Clark is automatic to Bradley and Jones gets the gamble call if he is eligible; no room for Edu. I also think Rogers is too low, he is one of the only true wingers in the player pool.
Bobeto
Monday September 14, 2009 11:25 am
When will we see Jones and Castillo in a US uniform. If Bradley doesn't even give them a look....he doesn't deserve to be coaching at this level.
He seems to want to look back on the former players and not look forward to the future. For the first time we could have some depth on this team or at least some competition for positions. If he keeps bringing in the MLS guys the starters will have no worries about stepping up their game. When they don't perform, Bradley's only choice is to play the bornsteins.
TGA
Monday September 14, 2009 11:08 am
Latest SI has likely put the curse on Altidore. Not on cover but featured in a story as The Next big thing in USA soccer.

Just like ESPN The Magazine did to Eddie Johnson a few years back...when he made The Next feature. Eddie has done one of the most amazing disappearing acts in the history of soccer.
Ilya
Monday September 14, 2009 9:58 am
With our defense problems it will be completely stupid not to take Hejduk. In spring qualifiers he was outstanding and he is a real leader. During his long career he played as right defender, left defender, right midfielder and even forward (for Leverkusen).
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