Revisiting player use in World Cup qualifying cycles



Just before the start of the World Cup, I posted an exploration of the United States’ roster through its last five qualifying cycles. Now that the tournament has finished, here is an updated version that includes the four games played by Jurgen Klinsmann’s team.


Some summary information from this exploration:

Cycle Games Players Coach
1998 19 36 Steve Sampson
2002 21 39 Bruce Arena
2006 21 47 Bruce Arena
2010 21 45 Bob Bradley
2014 20 42 Jurgen Klinsmann
Summary 102 131

The number of games played in each cycle have been very consistent, even as the structure of the qualification process has been tweaked. The number of players used, however, has fluctuated rather significantly – from a low of 36 players leading up to France ’98 to a high of 47 as Bruce Arena tried to retool in preparation for Germany ’06.

There is an interesting asterisk in this, in that Nick Rimando is listed on the chart without having actually appeared in the game. He is included by virtue of being named to the 23-man roster in Brazil, although he never played in an official game during the qualification cycle. Marcus Hahnemann found himself in a similar situation in 2010, but he did make an appearance late in the 2006 cycle (on the road to Guatemala after qualification was assured).

The qualification process for Russia ’18 will likely not get underway until two years from now, and it remains to be seen what the state of the player pool will be for that process. While players like DaMarcus Beasley and Landon Donovan are unlikely to make the final roster, they may have a role to play in qualifying. Should that happen, they would become the first players in US soccer history to take part in five World Cup cycles. Currently four players have taken part in four cycles, with Beasley and Donovan being joined by Steve Cherundolo and Frankie Hejduk.

A quartet of players is also poised to join the “four cycle club”. Carlos Bocanegra, Tim Howard, Eddie Johnson, and Clint Dempsey have all played in the last three groups, although in the case of a player like Bocanegra it is difficult to see a return to the international stage.

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