Sometime early next week, U.S. coach Bob Bradley will release the names of 26-28 players who will report to Princeton University starting on May 15. From there, he'll select the final 23-man roster for South Africa.
While it's true that only Bradley knows, that shouldn't stop the rest of us from guessing. After all, guessing and speculation is fun. Here's our shot at who will report to Princeton:
Goalkeepers: As speculation goes, this is low-hanging fruit. Tim Howard is the far-and-away No. 1. Marcus Hahnemann, coming off a solid season at Wolverhampton, seems the clear No. 2, and Brad Guzan is probably No. 3. Don't look for more than three in camp; Bradley is unlikely to take an MLS goalkeeper from his club only to release him two weeks later. If a goalkeeper gets hurt in camp, Bradley knows where to find the next guy in line.
Prediction for camp (3): Howard, Hahnemann, Guzan.
Defenders: This is the most settled position outside goalkeeper. Obviously, Oguchi Onyewu needs to prove he's sharp and fit, and it's hardly an ideal situation. Still, he'll be in camp. So will Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo, Jay DeMerit, Jonathan Spector and Jonathan Bornstein. That's based on recent form and on Bradley's selections in important matches over the last three-plus years. Chad Marshall's ongoing injury struggles over the last few months decrease his chances of receiving an invitation, which means Clarence Goodson is likely to report. Heath Pearce is, too, although he faces the most tenuous situation. Pearce needs a strong camp to stick once the final 23 is named.
Prediction for camp (8): Onyewu, Bocanegra, Cherundolo, DeMerit, Spector, Bornstein, Goodson and Pearce.
Midfielders: The easy guesses here are Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Benny Feilhaber, Ricardo Clark and Maurice Edu -- with the clerical caveat that Donovan, Dempsey or both could end up at forward. Otherwise, there are ample choices. DaMarcus Beasley has been stuck on the bench lately at Rangers -- the same bench he's become so familiar with during his time in Glasgow. That won't help his cause, but he'll probably be invited just the same. He was, after all, at the Confederations Cup last year, which was telling, even if he didn't do well there.
Jose Francisco Torres, a provider of roster variety through a disparate set of passing and possession skills, is sure to get his Princeton invite. Stuart Holden probably will, too, although he needs to prove himself all over again because of fitness concerns. Holden has a big set of lungs and he's used to working with intensity, so he has a good chance to stick -- quite possibly at Beasley's expense.
Best guess here is that Sacha Kljestan will also get a shot in camp. He looks quite confident right now at Chivas USA. Plus, his versatility is an asset; Kljestan can play wide or centrally in midfield or even as a second striker. And we all know about the alarming situation at striker.
Finally, Alejandro Bedoya is the wild card. Based on the fact that Bradley personally went to see the 23-year-old midfielder play for Sweden's Örebro SK this year, don't be surprised if he's in camp.
Prediction for camp (11): Donovan, Dempsey, Bradley, Feilhaber, Clark, Edu, Beasley, Torres, Holden, Kljestan and Bedoya.
Forwards:Jozy Altidore will be in camp. After that, anything is possible.
Eddie Johnson (yes, Eddie Johnson) has a good shot. Johnson didn't exactly drop jaws during his spring in Greece, but he's been to plenty of camps and has a World Cup on his CV. Best guess is that Edson Buddle has done enough to get his 11th-hour audition. His nearby address (down the hall from Bradley's office at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.) subtracts any lingering reluctance from a U.S. boss who prefers continuity and predictability. Herculez Gomez has been around the HDC lately, too, training with Chivas USA. Yes, he's a hot striker. Still, the hunch here is that Gomez's more complete body of work won't be enough to garner an invite.
Robbie Findley, Jeff Cunningham and Conor Casey needed to do more over the first 6-7 weeks of MLS to prove themselves deserving of an invitation. Frankly, all have shrunk beneath the weight of the opportunity. The fact that none of the three have a non-PK goal in MLS this year is a complete "Ripleys." (You know, believe it or not.) Cunningham seems highly unlikely to be in camp.
Under normal circumstances, Findley and Casey would have eliminated themselves from the conversation, too. But clearly these aren't normal circumstances. Injuries and poor form have spread like a nasty virus at the position, so Bradley will need to bring in additional candidates.
Casey might still have a shot, but only because his skill set is fairly distinctive within the group. On the other hand, Brian Ching seems ready to compete, so there's a chance Casey won't be at bat in Princeton.
Finally, let's address the Charlie Davies situation. It certainly won't be a shock if Davies is invited to camp -- and it shouldn't be a shock if he isn't. Bradley is aware of the delicacy of the situation. If there's any chance that Davies could contribute in South Africa -- as a late injection of speed up front, most likely -- then Bradley might be willing to gamble. But the U.S. coach will need to believe there is a reasonable level of success. Otherwise, what's the point?
There could be a downside here, too. Might Davies' involvement in camp create a situation where the player feels strong enough to make the final 23 but the coach doesn't? Something like that could stir unnecessary tension. There is probably enough unity in the core -- Howard, Donovan, Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Bocanegra, etc. -- to stanch any disharmony before it reaches troubling status. Still, why take the risk if there isn't a reasonable chance that Davies can contribute?
Predictions for camp (5): Altidore, Johnson, Buddle, Ching, Davies.
The last time 30,000-plus fans donned the green scarves and showed up at Qwest Field to see the Galaxy, their beloved Seattle Sounders weren't involved (well, except for a rousing pregame wave to the supporters.) On Saturday, the Galaxy make their first visit to the Northwest since falling to Real Salt Lake in last year's MLS Cup final. It's the highlight match of the weekend. Main plot: Bruce Arena's Galaxy are one of two unbeaten teams. Evocative subplot: This will be Donovan's last match until ... late June? Perhaps early July? Could be Buddle's, too. We'll see.
Elsewhere, Dallas, Columbus and Real Salt Lake will look to pick up big points at home against vulnerable teams: offensively challenged D.C. United, injury-challenged New England and generally expansion-challenged Philadelphia, respectively.