Matt Besler and Graham Zusi - U.S. Men's National Team call-up - May 28, 2017

Sporting KC defenders Matt Besler and Graham Zusi join U.S. MNT for pivotal World Cup qualifiers

Sporting Kansas City defenders Matt Besler and Graham Zusi were named to the U.S. Men’s National Team on Sunday for a pair of crucial World Cup qualifiers in CONCACAF’s Hexagonal.

Besler and Zusi have joined head coach Bruce Arena’s 26-man squad ahead of Friday’s match against Costa Rica at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, with live coverage set to begin at 5:30 p.m. CT on ESPN, Univision and UDN. The Americans will then travel to face Honduras next Tuesday, Sept. 5, at Estadio Olimpico in San Pedro Sula, broadcast live at 4:30 p.m. CT on beIN SPORTS and Universo.

“I think we’re bringing in a good roster, one that has depth in every position and in which all 26 players have been with the National Team in 2017,” Arena said. “I think we have the right understanding as a group as to what needs to be done, and hopefully we can be successful in these next two games.”

The U.S. MNT currently occupies third place in the Hexagonal standings with four World Cup qualifiers still to play between now and Oct. 10. The top three finishers will advance automatically to the 2018 FIFA World Cup next summer in Russia, while the fourth-place team will face an Asian country in a two-legged intercontinental playoff in November with a World Cup berth on the line.

Hexagonal Standings

Mexico 14 4 0 2 9 2 +7
Costa Rica 11 3 1 2 9 4 +5
United States 8 2 2 2 11 8 +3
Panama 7 1 1 4 4 4   0
Honduras 5 1 3 2 6 14 -8
Trinidad and Tobago 3 1 5 0 3 10 -7

The resumption of World Cup qualifying marks the first time the U.S. MNT has assembled since late July, when Besler and Zusi helped the Americans win the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup. The Sporting KC duo started four matches at the tournament, including a semifinal win over Costa Rica and a 2-1 championship victory over Jamaica, as Arena became the first coach to win three CONCACAF Gold Cups.

Besler, 30, has earned 44 appearances for the U.S. MNT since debuting in 2013. He won his first of two CONCACAF Gold Cup titles in 2013 and started all four games at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil as the Americans reached the Round of 16. He has made five starts throughout the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign and scored his first international goal in a 6-0 win over St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Sept. 2, 2016 — the same day his daughter Parker was born in Kansas City. The center back also featured twice at the 2016 Copa America last summer.

A native of Overland Park, Kansas, Besler has spent his entire professional career with Sporting Kansas City. The 2009 MLS SuperDraft selection ranks fourth in team history with 262 appearances across all competitions, including 23 games this season as captain of Major League Soccer’s best defense. In addition to helping his hometown club win the 2013 MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup titles in 2012 and 2015, the Notre Dame product has landed MLS Best XI (2012-13), MLS All-Star (2011, 2013-16) and 2012 MLS Defender of the Year accolades.

Zusi, 31, has logged 53 caps as a regular contributor for the U.S. MNT since 2012, tallying five goals and seven assists at the international level. He recorded two assists in four games at the 2014 FIFA World Cup before competing in his first CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2015. The versatile veteran played in all five matches at the 2016 Copa America — notably scoring against Costa Rica in a 4-0 group stage win — and has appeared in six games during 2018 World Cup qualifying.

Like Besler, Zusi joined Sporting Kansas City in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft and has represented no other club during his nine-year professional career. The University of Maryland product has garnered MLS All-Star (2012-15, 2017), MLS Best XI (2012-13) and 2011 MLS Breakout Player of the Year honors as a two-time U.S. Open Cup and 2013 MLS Cup champion. He has recorded 29 goals and 66 assists in 247 appearances for Sporting KC across all competitions, ranking second on the club’s all-time assist chart. Zusi has a team-best five assists in 2017 and leads all MLS defenders this season with 40 chances created.

U.S. MNT Roster by Position

GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC; 14/0), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids; 36/0), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake; 0/0)

DEFENDERS (9): DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo; 34/6), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City; 11/1), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/ENG; 22/2), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca/MEX; 15/0), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas; 0/0), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest/ENG; 0/0), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 5/0), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna/MEX; 3/0), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City; 18/3)

MIDFIELDERS (9): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas; 4/0), Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 3/1), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union; 9/0), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC/CAN; 35/7), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach/GER; 16/1), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire; 0/0), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers; 7/0), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 9/5), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 0/0)

FORWARDS (5): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC/CAN; 38/16), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC; 39/18), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC; 3/0), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Bobby Wood (Hamburg/GER; 10/4)