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The USMNT Camp Cupcake has a little more bite this year

Usually the January camp isn’t anything to get excited about for the USMNT fans. But with so many questions, that could change this year.

USMNT is starting 2023 with its annual January camp, where fringe players get a chance to represent the national team.

This year will be a little different considering the team currently doesn’t have a permanent head coach due to the crazy drama that unfolded earlier this month. Anthony Hudson, who has been an assistant coach under Gregg Berhalter, will lead the camp. 

Usually, the January camp is called “Camp Cupcake” due to the lack of quality of players in the camp. However, Hudson has called in some interesting names that will make many fans want to tune into the friendly games against Serbia and Colombia.

Dual-nats given a chance for USMNT

24 players have been called into this camp including some dual-nationals eligible for other national teams. For those players, it is an opportunity to get a taste of training and playing with the USMNT, which will likely impact their decision-making later on regarding their international allegiance. 

Some key guys the USMNT doesn’t want to miss out on are Alejandro Zendejas, Brandon Vázquez, and Jonathan Gómez. All three of them are eligible for México, and Zendejas and Gómez have even played some games for them, although FIFA says Zendejas can’t represent the USMNT unless he makes a one-time switch. There is a reason both national teams want the 24-year-old Zendejas. He has been lighting it up with Club América recently and scored a golazo this weekend before coming into the camp. 

Vázquez, meanwhile, scored eighteen goals last season in MLS and is still undecided on which national team he wants to commit to. He’s recently admitted that México is yet to contact him and as things stand, the ball is in the USMNT’s court to make him fully theirs. 

Gómez, on the other hand, is the toughest player to get for the USMNT. The 19-year-old is a highly-rated prospect who is still weighing which national team he wants to represent. The USMNT has a great opportunity this month to make him feel welcomed and at home, but things can still swing the other way.

Young players giving a peak at the future

Aside from dual-nats, another thing the fans should be watching out for is the young players. Out of the 24 players called up, eight of them are 21 or younger. Players like Gabriel Slonina and Paxten Aaronson just moved to Europe and are expected to become the next big thing for the national team. John Tolkin is also another player that will probably make the move to Europe soon after a break-out year with New York Red Bulls.

Matthew Hoppe and Cade Cowell became widely known after a good 2021 but have faded over the last 12 months. Being a part of this camp will hopefully let them know they aren’t forgotten yet by the national team and motivate them to find a spark again. And they will have plenty of chances to make a mark, because they’re going up against some tough opponents this winter.

Competitive opponents

Another reason why this January camp is exciting this year is because of the quality of opponents the USMNT is facing. Serbia and Colombia are far better than CONCACAF’s usual minnows, and although neither team will bring their best players they still have competitive teams that will give the USMNT a hard time. Especially since these countries still have a lot to prove.

Serbia had a bad World Cup in Qatar, while Colombia failed to even qualify. They will be using these friendly games as an opportunity to test out their fringe players who are hungry for playing time, giving these friendly games some competitive bite to them. 

The one downside to these games is the new streaming service required to watch them. We know getting HBO Max just to watch the USMNT friendlies can be expensive, and it doesn’t sound exciting to watch the team coached by someone like Hudson. But these two games might just be worth the watch for the USMNT fans considering all the shake-ups that could come as a result.