Who isn't here?
There are many quality, eligible players that are not with this group and there are many reasons for that. There are some players that are already core senior team players. There are some players that were not released by their clubs. There are a few players that are injured or not fit. There are a few that may have turned the invitation down to play for other countries. And there are a few that were not selected this time around. This is my prediction for why some top names are not here.
Eligible senior team players
The senior team will be at a camp and preparing for friendlies during the same window and a few members of that team are eligible for the Olympic team, but they likely won't participate in this cycle because they have solidified themselves as first team players. That list includes: Joe Scally (RB), Yunus Musah (CM), Gio Reyna (AM), Malik Tillman (AM), Folarin Balogun (CF), Ricardo Pepi (CF). The senior roster also includes Kristoffer Lund (LB), Johnny Cardoso (DM) and Kevin Paredes (RW) who could potentially still end up with the Olympic Team if they don't cement themselves as core senior team players by next summer.
Major League Soccer is in the final weeks of it's regular season and many clubs are still jostling for playoff spots and playoff positions. This means there are many players that were likely not released for this camp that might have been first choice for Mitrović. My best guess at this list includes: GK, Gabriel Slonina (Eupen), RB/CB, Justin Che (Den Haag), CB, George Campbell (Montreal), CB, Josh Wynder (Benfica), CM, Niko Tsakiris (San Jose), LW, Agustin Anello (Sparta Rotterdam), LW, Cade Cowell (San Jose), LW, Diego Luna (Real Salt Lake), CF, Matthew Hoppe (San Jose).
We know for sure Anello was not released, but was invited and I've heard the same about Wynder, Campbell and Cowell. Hoppe and Tsakiris are another two likely candidates for this team, but both play for San Jose who is battling to make the playoffs. Slonina was a surprise for me and given how much I know U.S. Soccer rates him I am guessing it was something they decided on with his club. All of these players are likely to get a look before next Summer.
Declined the invite
There are a few very talented dual-national eligible players that may have been invited, but declined because they are pursuing paths with other countries. I think the safest bet here is Noel Buck who accepted an invite with England U19s for European Championship Qualifiers, which if he plays, will provisionally cap-tie him to England. Zion Suzuki accepted a senior team invite with Japan and Amir Richardson accepted a senior team invite with Morocco. It's possible that CB, Fernando Alvarez declined an invite in favor of sticking with Colombia, but I am not certain of that. Lastly, Luca Koleosho likely holds an open invitation with the U.S. Men's National Team, even though he was born in 2004 and very much eligible for this tournament. Koleosho has been promoted to the Italy U21 team and has accepted that invite.
The following players are likely to be involved at some point when they are fit: CB, Jalen Neal (LA Galaxy), CM, Rokas Pukstas (Hajduk Split), LW, Konrad de la Fuente (Eibar)
This is a list of players that I think should be considered within this pool, but were likely not selected this time around: GK, Damian Las (Austin), GK, Antonio Carrera (Dallas), LB, Jonathan Gomez (Mirandes), LB, George Bello (LASK), LB, Noah Allen (IMCF), RB, Jake Davis (Sporting KC), RB, Reed Baker-Whiting (Seattle), CB, Brandan Craig (Austin), DM, Daniel Edelman (RBNY), CM Owen Wolff (Austin), AM, Ted Ku-DiPietro (D.C. United), AM, Aziel Jackson (St. Louis City), AM, Quinn Sullivan (Philadelphia), CF, Darren Yapi (Colorado).
In my opinion, the biggest misses for this camp is Ted Ku-DiPietro and Brandan Craig. Ku-DiPietro is a talented player that is playing well at the first team level. Craig is a super talented player that has been mismanaged this season and could use some game time. The invited roster only has two natural center-backs so it would have been nice to see Craig on the list.
Chris Brady, Chicago Fire (2004)
Patrick Schulte, Columbus Crew (2001)
John Pulskamp, Sporting KC (2001)
No big surprises here. Brady should be the #1 and is the most talented keeper in this group. Shulte is having a decent year in his first season as a starter and Pulskamp has been a spot starter for the last two years. I would have preferred to see Las or Carrera who I believe have higher upsides, but are not yet getting first team minutes. Eventually you'd expect to see Slonina with this group to compete with Brady for the #1 spot.
John Tolkin, RBNY (2002)
Caleb Wiley, Atlanta United (2004)
These are the best two left-back options in my opinion. Both players could play there way into the back-up left-back spot for the senior team by next summer and it's plausible that Kristoffer Lund could end up with this group — that could be a fluid situation. Jonathan Gomez is the only other player that might deserve a shout, but he's struggling to get consistent starts in LaLiga 2 and until that changes I don't see him jumping Tolkin, Wiley or Lund.
Bryan Reynolds, Westerlo (2001)
Nathan Harriel, Philadelphia Union (2001)
Reynolds is the clear cut starter for this group, especially if U.S. Soccer decided to keep Joe Scally with the senior team. The backup spot is a bit of a question mark for me if Scally stays up. Harriel is having a decent year in Philly, but he's a defensive first full-back that doesn't offer a ton going forward. I'm keeping an eye on Reed Baker-Whiting who is a 2005 born player and is starting to carve out a role for the Seattle Sounders. If he becomes a more consistent starter for Seattle next season, he could jump Harriel as the backup. Another player to monitor is Kayden Pierre who has missed this majority of this season with hamstring issues. If he can come back healthy and regain his 2022 form he can also be an option here.
Maximilian Dietz, Greuther Furth (2002)
Jonathan Tomkinson, Bradford City (2002)
This is a super thin position group and is a likely position where Mitrović will call on non U23 players for the final roster. It's so thin that he has only called two center-backs for this camp, so it's likely that we see these two guys both games or a potential three back line with Harriel dropping in to play center-back, which he has done for Philadelphia this year.
Dietz is having a nice season as a first year starter in 2. Bundesliga and is a player I am excited to see in a U.S. kit. I've always liked Tomkinson's profile, but he's struggled to get minutes during his last two loans within the lower levels of England. As I said earlier, I would have liked to see Craig join this group, but he's not here. Jalen Neal will likely be the eventual leader of this group once he is back healthy. He is a player that already has six senior team caps. George Campbell is one of the most experienced eligible players, but was not released as Montreal is competing for a playoff spot in the final weeks of the season. The last name that is likely in this hat is Josh Wynder who will stay in Portugal for this camp where he is still working to solidify a key role within their reserve team.
Tanner Tessmann, Venezia (2002)
Aidan Morris, Columbus Crew (2001)
Obed Vargas, Seattle Sounders (2005)
These are likely the top two options at the six if Johnny Cardoso remains with the senior team. Tessmann was with the first team during their last set of friendlies and Morris was on the Gold Cup team at the beginning before he left the camp for personal reasons. Vargas is a top 2005 player that U.S. Soccer rates highly and they are showing him that by inviting him to this camp. Daniel Edelman might have been more deserving than Vargas on merit, but Vargas is the more talented player and is a Mexican dual-national so I think that gave him the edge.
Gianluca Busio, Venezia (2002)
Benja Cremaschi, Inter Miami (2005)
Jack McGlynn, Philadelphia Union (2003)
This might end up being the most competitive position group leading up to the 2024 Summer Olympics. I like the trio that received the invite for this camp, but I expect more players to push there way into the picture. Busio is having a very nice season in Serie B and is looking like a more physical player than he use to be. Cremaschi was with the first team last camp and is a high priority dual-national and top 2005 player. McGlynn is a top 2003 player that is being heavily recruited by Ireland.
Rokas Pukstas will likely get back in the mix once he recovers from injury. Owen Wolff could be a potential candidate in the future and Niko Tsakiris will likely get a look at some point. Noel Buck would have been another great option but he has decided to continue to pursue his path with England.
Paxten Aaronson, Eintracht Frankfurt (2003)
Brian Gutierrez, Chicago Fire (2003)
Indiana Vassilev, St. Louis City (2001)
This is another strong group with some serious young talent. Aaronson and Gutierrez are both top 2003 players and very good playmakers. Gutierrez should be in Europe soon and I don't think he is too far away from senior team call-ups. Vassilev was probably the biggest surprise invite for me. He is having a nice season for STL with eight goal contributions, but I am not sure I see a huge upside to his game. I would have preferred to see Ted Ku-DiPietro. Aziel Jackson and Quinn Sullivan are two other players that could push for spots at some point.
Taylor Booth, Utrecht (2001)
Bernard Kamungo, FC Dallas (2002)
Esmir Bajraktarevic, New England Revolution (2005)
This is one of the more fun and interesting position groups for me. Booth is a fringe senior team player that is just returning from injury and likely won't get a ton of minutes in these two games. He is a player that could be with the senior team by next summer or could be a leader of this group. He is one of the most talented players on this team. Kamungo is an incredible story
and a talented player that is improving a lot. Bajraktarevic is another U20 eligible player that is being heavily recruited by Bosnia, so having him here is a good win.
Agustin Anello and Cade Cowell are two players that were likely first choice players, but not released by their clubs. I am guessing Diego Luna was not released because Real Salt Lake are jostling for playoff position. Kevin Paredes could also be an option for this group in other camps. Konrad de la Fuente are two other players dealing with injuries that could also be options at some point.
Duncan McGuire, Orlando City (2001)
Johan Gomez, Eintracht Braunschweig (2001)
This is another position group that lacks depth and could be a spot where Mitrović calls on senior players to support. McGuire has come out of nowhere to score 13 goals across all competitions in his first professional season. He doesn't have a ton of tools, but shows good instincts. Gomez is the brother Jonathan Gomez and a big surprise name on this roster. He can play many attacking positions, but I expect him to serve as a Jesus Ferreira style number nine for Mitrović.
Matthew Hoppe was likely a top choice, but was not released by San Jose. Damion Downs is a player that could garner interest now that he is starting to get first team minutes in the Bundesliga. Darren Yapi is a high potential player that needs to make an impact in MLS next year to get consideration with this group.
Overall I think this is a very strong first roster for Mitrović considering some of the challenges he had with releases. Overall I really don't have many complaints. I would have brought Brandan Craig and I would have selected Ted Ku-DiPietro over Indiana Vassilev, but other than that I think the selections are spot on given who was available. It will be fun to see this age group back in action and get a look at players who are most "up next" to push for senior team minutes.