The goalkeeper position has long been a position of strength for the U.S. national team, and the lineage of goalkeeping standouts reads like a who's who of American greats. Kasey Keller, Tony Meola and Brad Friedel have set the bar high for American netminders, and Tim Howard has done an excellent job of keeping that tradition going.
For the second straight World Cup there is no debating who the leading U.S. national team goalkeeper is, and as Howard draws closer to his second World Cup as a starter, he is wrapping up one of the best seasons of his impressive career with English Premier League side Everton, which is enjoying one of the best seasons of his 10-year stint there.
There is no other position on the U.S. national team as set in stone as goalkeeper, with Brad Guzan firmly entrenched as Howard's No. 2, and Nick Rimando established as the third-choice option for Klinsmann. All three will head to Brazil if they stay healthy.
Klinsmann's approach to the rest of the goalkeeper pool has been to prepare for the future, and life after his top trio, With Howard being 35 and Rmando 34. This has lead to consistent call-ups for young MLS goalkeepers Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid, even though both are still enduring the growing pains of learning the position.
The overall goalkeeper player pool has plenty of promising young options, including Colorado goalkeeper Clint Irwin and fast-improving Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath. There are solid veterans in MLS as well, with the likes of Tally Hall and Luis Robles, but in terms of looking at prospects capable of following Guzan as a potential U.S. No. 1 in four or five years, they are probably too old to be considered legitimate candidates.
An even deeper look into the pool reveals a pair of U.S. Under-20 goalkeepers with bright futures. Cody Cropper started at the Under-20 World Cup, and has even made the bench for English Premier League side Southampton this season. University of Maryland goalkeeper Zach Steffen hasn't turned pro yet, but scouts rave about him as a potential talent on the level of a Tim Howard.
So who are the top U.S. national team goalkeeper options as we head toward the 2014 World Cup? Here are the five goalkeepers Klinsmann has in the frame:
Tim Howard - Everton
The 35-year-old Everton shot stopper is enjoying one the best seasons of his career, and looks poised to head into the World Cup in top form. His cat-like reflexes and ability to organize his defense make him an invaluable asset in goal.
Brad Guzan - Aston Villa
The Aston Villa man has put together an outstanding second season as a full-time starter. A 6-foot-4 physical force who commands his penalty area well, and moves extremely well for a goalkeeper his size, Guzan doesn't quite boast Howard's poise or organizing skills in the back, but he is a solid backup who has shown he is capable of handling the starting role when needed.
Nick Rimando - Real Salt Lake
One of the best goalkeepers in MLS history, Rimando makes up for a lack of size by boasting supreme athleticism and intelligence. A poised goalkeeper who always seems to put himself in the right position, is also a first-class locker room presence, which will be vital in his role as third goalkeeper at the World Cup.
Sean Johnson - Chicago Fire
Bill Hamid - D.C. United