Players used in World Cup qualifying, 1998 – 2016

Every so often I go back and refresh this chart – one of the first I ever tried – that plots players used in World Cup cycles (both qualifying and tournament finals) by the US men’s national team from 1998 through the present. With the 2018 Hexagonal set to begin next month, this seems like a good time for the latest iteration.

More details after the jump.

The structure of the plot is similar to other roster progression plots that I’ve made at times – the biggest change is that here the time axis is horizontal. Each qualifying cycle is separated by a gray column that indicates which players were used in that cycle, and the number of appearances they made.

When specific games and individuals are summarized, some larger trends emerge:


The 1998 class is a misnomer, as it includes players who stretch back to the 1990 World Cup – but I had to pick somewhere to start. The 1998 cycle was the first to take place after the beginning of MLS, and the 1994 team didn’t have to go through qualifying – so that seemed like a reasonable place to start.

That caveat aside, it is interesting that classes typically last through four cycles (16 years total). By the fourth year, there are typically a very small number of players still involved: Frankie Hejduk through the first half of the Hexagonal in 2009, the trio of Cherundolo, Donovan, and Beasley in the 2014 cycle, etc. Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey are the only players from the 2006 cycle to have appeared so far in the 2018 effort.

On the other side of the spectrum, the 12 players added to the pool so far in 2018 is in line with previous groups. The 2014 cycle saw nine new players through the semifinals, while the 2006 and 2010 groups were muddied by the presence of an earlier home-and-home series that saw lots of new players added but never used again (Danny Szetela, Drew Moor, and John Thorrington saw action in 2010 for example).

One trend to watch for throughout the Hexagonal is how Jurgen Klinsmann continues to introduce new players. The semifinal round saw more appearances (30) from the last cycle than from new players (28) – which would be a departure from past cycles if it continues.

A note about tooling

I’ve yet to come across a good web-based tool for displaying charts like this. I’ve used SeaDragon in the past for image zooming, but after the demise of that platform I’ve switched to UniversalViewer and the TryIIIF service for this iteration. I’m still not thrilled, however – ultimately I’m afraid I’ll have to build something custom for large displays like this, but haven’t settled on the details yet.

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