Sporting Kansas City captain Matt Besler was named to the United States Men's National Team's 26-player roster on Sunday for a pair of upcoming 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Guatemala.
The U.S. will travel to face Guatemala on Friday at Estadio Metropolitano Roberto Melendez in Guatemala City (9 p.m. CT, beIN Sports, NBC Universo) before hosting the return fixture on March 29 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio (6 p.m. CT, ESPN2, UniMas, UDN).
"I'm excited and honored to join the U.S. Men's National Team for two very important World Cup qualifiers," Besler said. "With Copa America also on the horizon, it will be important for us to improve as a team and win these games. We are looking forward to a successful year in 2016."
Besler, 29, has played 90 minutes in both of Sporting Kansas City's victories to open the 2016 MLS season, anchoring a defense that has yet to allow a goal from the run of play. The Overland Park, Kansas, native ranks seventh in Sporting KC history with 221 games played across all competitions since being selected in the first round of the 2009 MLS SuperDraft out of Notre Dame. The four-time MLS All-Star has twice been named to the MLS Best XI (2012, 2013) and earned 2012 MLS Defender of the Year honors.
Internationally, Besler has made 31 career appearances for the U.S. MNT since debuting in January 2013. He helped lead the U.S. to the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup title and started all four matches for the Yanks at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Besler earned six more caps in 2015 and most recently played 90 minutes in a pair of friendly wins over Iceland (Jan. 31) and Canada (Feb. 5).
Led by head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, the United States sits atop Group C in CONCACAF's semifinal round of World Cup qualifying, which consists of 12 countries divided into three groups. Teams square off in a home-and-away round robin format, with the top two finishers from each group advancing to the final qualifying round - commonly referred to as "The Hexagonal."
The U.S. will conclude the semifinal round of qualifying in September with games against Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (Sept. 2) and Trinidad and Tobago (Sept. 6). Before then, Klinsmann's side will compete in Copa America Centenario, the U.S. MNT's marquee competition of 2016. The 16-team tournament will be held in the United States from June 3-26, featuring the likes of Argentina, Brazil and Mexico.
Besler joins Roger Espinoza (Honduras) and Soni Mustivar (Haiti) as Sporting KC players who will join their respective national teams next week for World Cup qualifying in the CONCACAF region. Sporting Kansas City has next weekend off during the FIFA international window. Besler, Espinoza and Mustivar will rejoin their club ahead of its next MLS match against Real Salt Lake on April 2 at Children’s Mercy Park.
U.S. ROSTER BY POSITION (Club; WCQ Caps/Goals)
GOALKEEPERS (4): David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa; 9/0), Tim Howard (Everton FC; 30/0), William Yarbrough (Club Leon; 0/0)
DEFENDERS (9): Ventura Alvarado (Club America; 0/0), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City; 8/0), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United; 0/0), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin; 0/0), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City; 15/1), Edgar Castillo (Monterrey; 4/0), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca; 8/0), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana; 4/1), DeAndre Yedlin (Sunderland; 0/0)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake; 6/0), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes FC; 3/0), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC; 26/5), Mix Diskerud (New York City FC; 3/0), Ethan Finlay (Columbus Crew SC; 0/0), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Monchengladbach; 11/1), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers FC; 2/0), Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution; 0/0)
FORWARDS (5): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC; 28/12), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC; 34/13), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Bobby Wood (Union Berlin; 2/1), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy; 2/1)