No one knows how Klinsmann's team will hold up in a brutal knockout-round group that also includes European powers Germany and Portugal, but one thing is clear: The fate of the USMNT is tightly bound with that of Major League Soccer, the North American league now in its 19th season.
Is U.S. league worthy?
Ten of the 23 players on the national team are currently with MLS clubs, including Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), veteran forward Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), midfielder Michael Bradley (Toronto FC) and local favorite Chris Wondolowski, a forward who grew up in Danville and now plays for the San Jose Earthquakes.
Most analysts figured on more MLS-ers than that, but the harshest cuts Thursday included veteran midfielder Maurice Edu (Philadelphia Union) and, most newsworthy of all, forward Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), America's all-time leading scorer in international play.
Still, this remains an MLS-heavy team. The question is whether the domestic league is strong enough to prepare players for World Cup competition, which will include the top athletes from the English Premier League, Spain's La Liga, Germany's Bundesliga and other top-tier national organizations.
The Americans sound certain that MLS is worthy.
"I think we are all very excited about what happens with MLS," Klinsmann said. "Every year there's another step forward, another step forward. The league is growing, not only obviously on the infrastructure side, the financial side, but also on the level-of-play side. ... They're getting better prepared, they're understanding better what the comparison to Europe is, or South America. I think that learning curve will continue. It still has to go some years down the road, but I think we're just improving."
Four years ago, Edu was under contract with the Scottish club Rangers F.C. when he made the 23-man U.S. team for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
"And this time I'm in MLS, and I felt just as good as I did then," he said the day before he was cut. "I feel like the level is high enough to where I felt good so far this week in training. I feel like I've been able to maintain my standards and compete at a high level, and that's due to my playing in MLS."
A new generation