Rarely is there a better indicator of where American players stand than when national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann announces a U.S. roster. So it was again on Monday, when Klinsmann named a 25-man squad for Friday's friendly in London against Colombia (2:45 p.m. ET, ESPN2/WatchESPN) and four days later at the Republic of Ireland.
The list is as revealing as usual, even if there are some notable omissions. While 10 MLS players -- some of them still on teams competing in the domestic league's postseason -- made the cut, the playoffs did factor into some of Klinsmann's decisions.
You can be sure that under normal circumstances, captain Clint Dempsey would be leading the Yanks onto the field at Craven Cottage on Friday. L.A. Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez would probably be there too.
But although some changes are expected after the first match, this squad has a shortage of veterans. By design, several 2014 World Cup starters are returning to the national team for the first time since Brazil, and they'll be counted on to help bring along their less experienced 'mates -- 12 players on the roster are 24 years old or younger -- during the final two games of 2014.
"In a transition phase after a World Cup, having a year until you play that Gold Cup in July, we need these older players," Klinsmann told ussoccer.com after picking his squad. "They have to help get the younger players to another level."
While several vets get back to form or back in the mix, a few of the youngsters Klinsmann alluded to are already making a name for themselves.
Here's a quick sampling of who's trending up and down this week:
Lee Nguyen, M, New England Revolution (MLS)
Why he's here: The only question was whether Nguyen's inevitable call-up would come this month or in January, but the MLS MVP favorite proved that he deserved a look now after scoring 20 goals in all competitions (including two in two playoff games so far) this year.
What this means: There's a big difference between MLS and the international level, of course, so it will be fascinating to see how the 28-year-old -- assuming he sees the field against Colombia (he and club teammate Jermaine Jones are expected to return to the Revs before the Ireland match) -- adjusts to the increased speed of play.
DaMarcus Beasley, D, Houston Dynamo (MLS)
Why he's here: As well as the 32-year-old played in the Yanks' 2-1, World Cup-ending loss to Belgium in July, Beasley had people wondering then if his 120th cap would also be his last. Even though he's had an injury-plagued few months after joining the Dynamo, Klinsmann believes the vet still has plenty more to give.
What this means: It's probably not realistic to expect Beasley to hang around all the way until 2018, but his experience and leadership could be valuable through the Gold Cup at the very least. Fellow left back Greg Garza, in particular, stands to benefit from the presence of his former Liga MX adversary.
Brad Guzan, G, Aston Villa (England)
Why he's here: Guzan kept his first clean sheet since September in Villa's scoreless draw versus West Ham.
What this means: The point snapped Villa's six-game losing streak and should boost Guzan's confidence heading into the international break, during which he could start both U.S. games.
Jordan Morris, M/F, Stanford University (NCAA)
Why he's here: Klinsmann's continued interest in Morris, who was also called in ahead of September's 1-0 win in the Czech Republic, is a clear sign that the coach sees college soccer's best player staying in the mix this cycle.
What this means: Although he didn't play, the speedy, intelligent Morris impressed Klinsmann in that camp. Don't be surprised if the coach rewards him with some time off the bench this month.
Rubio Rubin, F, Utrecht (Netherlands)
Why he's here: The 18-year-old has been among the top American performers in Europe this season, which is why he's with the senior team and not the U20s during this window.
What this means: The last time Rubin was called in with the varsity, in September, he didn't see the field. It's all but certain that he'll earn his first cap this time around.
Tesho Akindele, F, FC Dallas (MLS)
Why he's here: Several credible sources reported that Akindele would be on the roster after turning down a call from his native Canada last week, but he was not included on the squad.
What this means: No doubt Klinsmann will be asked to explain the omission later this week, but don't assume the coach had a change of heart. With roster changes ahead, Akindele could still come in for the Ireland game if Seattle eliminates FCD on Monday night.
Graham Zusi, M, Sporting Kansas City (MLS)
Why he's here: Zusi, who didn't perform well in last month's 1-1 tie with Honduras, seemed to run out of gas at the end of the longest season of his career.
What this means: Look for the 28-year-old to return to the national team in January after a much-needed break.