Sporting Kansas City defender Matt Besler and midfielder Graham Zusi were named to the U.S. Men’s National Team roster on Thursday ahead of two international friendlies and three FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, U.S. Soccer announced. Both players will join the U.S. Men’s National Team in Cleveland following Sporting Kansas City’s match against the Houston Dynamo on May 26.
The U.S. Men’s National Team will open their training camp on May 26 in preparation for home friendlies against Belgium on May 29 and against Germany on June 2. Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann will then lead his team into three FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, beginning at Jamaica on June 7 before returning home to host Panama on June 11 and Honduras on June 18.
Besler, 26, played the full 90 minutes in 0-0 draw against Mexico at Estadio Azteca in the United States’ most recent match, earning his second international appearance and first in a FIFA World Cup Qualifier. He made his U.S. MNT debut earlier this year in a scoreless draw against Canada and was rated the National Team’s top performer in the Castrol Index for both appearances.
The Overland Park, Kan. native was a 2011 MLS All-Star and he received Best XI honors and was named MLS Defender of the Year in 2012.
“I’m very excited and honored to get another opportunity to play for the National Team,” Besler said. “These upcoming qualifiers are very big games and we’re excited that two of them are at home, so we’re looking to get a lot of points and position ourselves to qualify for the World Cup. I can’t wait to start working.”
“Over the last year I think we’ve stepped it up in terms of competition for the two center back positions,” Klinsmann said. “I think Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler did an amazing jump, especially with the game they played in Estadio Azteca in our tie in Mexico, and also with their club teams.”
Zusi has appeared in each of the United States last six FIFA World Cup Qualifiers and has made 10 total appearances for the U.S. Men’s National Team, including all four of the team’s matches in 2013. The 26-year-old playmaker leads Major League Soccer with four assists in 2013, one year after leading the League with a career-high 15 assists to earn MLS Best XI and All-Star honors in 2012.
“It’s an honor that never gets old,” Zusi said. “I’m really excited about the upcoming games; a few big ones, a couple friendlies to lead up to the qualifiers against some very good teams. I’m ready to get back into it and get some points to push us up the rankings in the Hex.”
“Graham is a great example to show everybody how fast it can go,” Klinsmann said. “He broke in and he played consistently on a very high level. He has a tremendous attitude and a very professional approach…He made a strong case, he’s the starter on the right flank and he doesn’t want to give that away. This is just great to see the improvements he’s made at Kansas City under Peter Vermes.”
Besler and Zusi are two of five field players from Major League Soccer chosen to the U.S. Men’s National Team roster.
Currently in second place in the Final Round of qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the U.S. is part of the six-team Hexagonal along with Costa Rica, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico and Panama. The 10-game, round-robin format will continue through Oct. 10 with the top three teams automatically advancing to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. The fourth-place team will compete in a two-leg playoff against the champion from the Oceania Confederation.
Fans can find ticket and broadcast information for all five upcoming matches at ussoccer.com. Additionally, supporters can follow every U.S. MNT match through ussoccer.com’s Match Tracker and via Twitter @ussoccer.