The European transfer window is open, and while U.S. men's national team players are typically involved in Silly Season chatter, the fact that this window is so close to the World Cup makes it that much more important that every potential move is executed with caution and precision.
The major word to drop Thursday was Schalke going public with Jermaine Jones' desire to be elsewhere. Jones figures to be a World Cup starter for Jurgen Klinsmann, or at the very least be in the heart of the discussion, but if he goes through a club catastrophe in the months leading up to this summer, that would certainly put his national team place on uncertain ground.
Here's a look at Jones and the other U.S. men's national team staples and hopefuls who could be on the move this winter:
JERMAINE JONES, Schalke
There's just something about the winter that brings the unusual out of Jones.
The last two years, Jones' club suspensions -- one for in-game discipline, one for club-levied punishment -- have led to him making headlines for the wrong reasons (and in 2012 he turned his suspension into a place at the U.S. January camp). Thursday, Schalke surprisingly revealed that Jones won't be taking part in its winter-break training camp in Qatar because he is apparently surveying his transfer options.
Jones is out of contract at the end of the season, so a Schalke departure post-World Cup would have been expected. One immediately, though, comes a bit out of left field. For a potential World Cup-starting central midfielder to have this much uncertainty on the club level this close to the World Cup is certainly cause to raise an eyebrow or two.
Would Jones come to MLS? He does own a home in Los Angeles, but financially, it's highly unlikely that a move Stateside would work out in his favor. If he signed with MLS as a Designated Player, he'd be able to go to the team of his liking (a la Clint Dempsey's summer move), but if he took less money to come to America, D.C. United would have first crack at his rights through the allocation order.
FABIAN JOHNSON, Hoffenheim
Like Jones, Johnson is another high-profile national team player who is out of contract at the end of the season. According to reports in Germany, Hoffenheim wants to re-sign Johnson, but there is interest from other Bundesliga clubs like Borussia Monchengladbach.
Kicker reports that Hoffenheim's director Alexander Rosen is expecting a resolution one way or another by the end of January.
JUAN AGUDELO, Unattached
Agudelo's move to Stoke City from MLS fell through after he was denied a UK work permit, leaving the uber-talented prospect with an uncertain future and no club. Reports have linked Agudelo to clubs in the Netherlands and Spain, and Celtic had previously expressed interest in him after a training stint, but nothing has materialized for the 21-year-old forward just yet.
MAURICE EDU, Stoke City
Edu secured a move to Stoke from cash-strapped Rangers more than a year and a half ago, but it hasn't gone well. Edu was loaned to Turkish club Bursaspor last season to secure playing time, but injuries and Stoke's roster congestion have limited his chances at Britannia Stadium. Once a lock in the upper tier of U.S. central midfielders, and even a possibility in defense, Edu hasn't been called in by Klinsmann since last May -- when he had to withdraw with a sports hernia -- and would benefit from a real change of scenery to improve his odds at securing a trip to a second straight World Cup.
ARON JOHANNSSON, AZ Alkmaar
Johannsson has reportedly become the apple of Celtic's eye, which wouldn't necessarily be a move forward for the lethal Icelandic-American striker. At AZ, like Jozy Altidore was able to do last season, Johannsson has flourished. He already has 18 goals in all competitions, setting his sights on Altidore's single-season American abroad record of 31 set last season. Playing time at AZ is not a question for Johannsson, and his Dutch league competition is better on the whole than that of the Scottish league. He is in no immediate need of a move, but the fact that his name keeps popping up has him on the outer rings of the transfer radar, and if AZ elects to cash in on its prized asset, then he'll be forced to adjust accordingly.