One of the themes in U.S. Soccer this week is the young wave of American talent getting its chance to perform under the spotlight both internationally and on the club level.
In Russia on Wednesday, four up-and-comers -- Juan Agudelo, Josh Gatt, Joe Gyau and Mix Diskerud -- will be part of the U.S. team going into Krasnodar looking to finish off 2012 with another friendly road victory over a strong opponent (The U.S. has defeated Italy and Mexico in friendlies this year.) All four would-have-been Olympians missed out on the opportunity to compete in London this summer, but that was hardly the end-all be-all for them. A combination of strong club play and potential has them on U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann's radar as he looks to interject youth into his squad.
For Gatt and Diskerud, the call-ups were good news piled on top of more good news. Gatt's Molde won the Tippeligaen (Norway's top flight) for the second straight year, clinching first place with a victory over the weekend. Assuming Gatt, a lightning-fast winger/fullback, remains with the club, he'll get the chance to play in the UEFA Champions League next summer, with Molde's title assuring the team of a place in the competition's preliminary rounds.
Diskerud, who reportedly is closing in on an extension with Rosenborg after a successful few months following a transfer from fellow Norwegian side Stabaek, is all but guaranteed a place in the UEFA Europa League again next season. Rosenborg holds a three-point edge over Tromso for the final Europa League spot in Norway but maintains a plus-10 goal differential that should be more than enough to stave off any season finale shenanigans. The central midfielder has carved out a place in Rosenborg's lineup, a home that has fostered Diskerud's game and continued his progression in a way that Stabaek was not.
The Champions League and Europa League are the premier club competitions in Europe, but when it comes to club prestige in the Americas, it does not get any bigger than the Copa Libertadores, and the American contingent at Mexico's Club Tijuana clinched a place in next year's tournament with a storybook second-place finish in the Liga MX regular season. The surprise Xolos, helped in part by U.S. young guns Joe Corona and Greg Garza and 26-year-old left back Edgar Castillo, were promoted to Mexico's top flight 18 months ago and also represent the only chance any Americans have at capturing league silverware in Mexico. The Liga MX Liguilla -- an eight-team playoff tournament -- kicks off this week, with the winner being crowned Apertura champion and sealing a corresponding place in next year's CONCACAF Champions League.
In addition to the team accomplishments sealed by the young Americans in Norway and Mexico, U.S. call-ups Jozy Altidore and Sacha Kljestan and hopefuls Alejandro Bedoya and Andrew Wooten scored goals to highlight the individual accolades for Americans playing abroad this past week. Here is how they and the rest of their countrymen fared (season statistics encompass all competitions):