Our national team coach, Gregg Berhalter, has called up a group of mostly MLS players to camp this month. These players will get a chance to show their stuff when the USA hosts Bosnia and Herzegovina on December 19th in Carson, California.
Most of the European leagues are still ongoing, yet the MLS is wrapping up, with most teams already finished playing and the 2021 MLS Cup Final being contested December 11th. The new season will get underway in late February 2022. So yes, I think this MLS-heavy camp is a good move by Berhalter. He will have a chance to look at some fringe players as well as a few completely new faces.
Obviously the late-January international window for World Cup qualifying made it necessary to old this version of what was often referred to in the past as “Camp Cupcake” earlier than usual, however the concept – a useful one by all means – is similar to previous years.
However, is one short camp and one game really enough? Could Berhalter and US Soccer perhaps do a bit more; have an even closer look while spending more time with these players? Of course, they can. Perhaps it’s too late to change course this year, but this long dead-time for MLS-based players remains, and can be better exploited to the benefit of the Stars & Stripes.
How about another camp in the new year? Not only another camp, but also this time a camp based in Europe. It makes perfect sense. Nothing is going on soccer-wise in the USA in January and most of February. It is the perfect time to pack up the MLS contingent of Nats and potential Nats for a European road trip.
When would this be? I think that early- to mid-January would make sense. Some of the European leagues are returning form their winter break at that time, and in some cases (in particular in Germany) are undergoing short winter training camps.
This will give the MLS-Nats a chance to play some friendlies against these teams. It is the norm for the returning teams to schedule a few friendlies against teams from not only their country but from other European leagues. These young MLSers would be able to test themselves against some Bundesliga teams as well as those from other leagues.
And who knows, maybe a few of these guys would end up latching onto a new team in the January transfer window, and skipping the return flight back across the Atlantic.
I particularly said Bundesliga teams because I think that Germany would be an ideal location for the team to set up their base of operations. US Soccer could negotiate with a German team or other facility to perhaps use their facilities to train. Few may remember, but just over ten years ago, in November 2011, then-Olympic coach Caleb Porter held a U23 camp in a sporting school in Duisburg.
If that is not possible, there are also several US Military bases in the country. Before the younger readers groan in disbelief, I should point out that this would not be the first time that the US Military has hosted the USMNT. Back in February 2006 the team played a friendly against Poland at the Fritz-Walter Stadium in Kaiserslautern, and stayed at Rammstein Air Force Base, where they trained and also spent time with American military personnel and their families on base.
They also visited sick and injured soldiers at Landstuhl Army Medical Center. Being a big Nats fan and a former soldier, I know that many at the base would love to have an opportunity like this again.
So let the players have a great December camp, a very competitive game against BiH, and then some time to celebrate the holidays before heading across the Atlantic for what would be a unique experience.
Even if US Soccer can’t pull it off this year, the perfect timing of the long MLS break between seasons, and the midseason winter breaks and warm-up for many European clubs will keep this as an option for nearly every year in the future.
Camp Cupcake was good, but now it’s time for Camp Pfannkuchen.