With the start of the World Cup hexagonal qualifying group less than a month away, and the prospect of a Gold Cup in the summer, Jurgen Klinsmann started a vital year with the announcement of a squad for this month's training camp — with a lineup that for once leaned heavily on MLS players.

Lest that be seen as an about face for a coach who has been wary of too much experimenting with players from the league — preferring to look at players who have had some European or Mexican league experience — this squad was always likely to have this emphasis. Coming during the MLS off-season and the peaking of the European leagues (and concurrent player commitments), this is a chance for the coach to run the rule over some fringe players and new international trialists from the domestic league, and perhaps unearth a couple of future gems, such as the ones he turned up in Graham Zusi and Geoff Cameron last year.

Of the 25 players selected, 21 play in MLS, and 12 of the 19 teams are represented. Some are players who've been around the edge of the squad before - Kyle Beckerman has been in and out of the scrum of defensive midfielders Klinsmann has tended to favor, and players like Brad Davis and last year's MLS MVP and goalscoring machine Chris Wondolowski each have national team records, though neither club talisman has broken double figures for international games played. Juan Agudelo, too, is in the squad, trying to find his way back after his passage from teenage phenomenon lost its way somewhere en route to a dreadful Chivas USA side last year.

Alongside him in attack, Eddie Johnson might feel that the cameo he played late in the USA's first World Cup qualifying stage last year, did enough to keep his own personal revival at Seattle on track for more serious consideration for more competitive squads, while Houston Dynamo's Will Bruin sees his impressive sophomore season rewarded with a call up, alongside his teammate Tally Hall, whose assured goalkeeping took his team to a second consecutive MLS Cup final in December.

But what of the man who scored the winner in that cup final, and who has been synonymous with the US team for the past decade - Landon Donovan? Klinsmann's captain famously spoke of needing a break towards the end of last year, and while his club side LA Galaxy are privately confident he'll be back next season, the player himself has made noises about a more sustained period away from the game. And the most famous MLS regular in the team is absent from this squad, with Klinsmann noting to Fox Soccer that

"He's not at a point yet where he knows what he wants to do...We're as curious as everyone else as to what his decision will be at a future time."

Klinsmann seemed to suggest that as well as missing the friendly against Canada on January 29th (celebrating 100 years of US soccer), that Donovan may have effectively ruled himself out of the first World Cup qualifying game in Honduras a week later. So there may be a glimmer of an opening for some of the more realistic fringe candidates, even when the big guns of Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey return to the fold.

Of those in the "one for the future" category, it's interesting to see New York's Connor Lade in the line up. Lade enjoyed a strong debut season in 2012, despite struggling in the playoffs. Most commentators may feel that his team mate Dax McCarty perhaps did more than Lade to deserve a call up, but he had the misfortune to be a revelation at Klinsmann's stockpiled position of defensive midfielder last year. Lade's call up is highly unlikely to lead to immediate playing time, but it tallies with Klinsmann's approach of exposing young players to the national set-up gradually.

One player who will feel that this is a real chance to show that his time has come is Omar Gonzalez. The MVP of the MLS Cup final threatened to derail the Galaxy's defense of their title last year with a serious off-season injury, ironically acquired while following Klinsmann's suggestion to his young players to seek top-flight European training experience in the off-season. Gonzalez returned to steady the defense and make a compelling case for himself in the league's showpiece game. He'll be watched closely as the player perhaps most likely to make a consistent senior breakthrough.

The other selections mainly feel like a reward for strong domestic performances last year, and not necessarily an indication of national team futures. It's reminiscent of an All Star squad in that respect - and indeed a notable absentee through injury, Chris Pontius, was a game winner for MLS All Stars when they played Chelsea last summer. The San Jose duo of Steven Beitashour and Justin Morrow, for example, get their reward for defending behind their team's prodigious attack, and there are nods too for Sporting KC's Matt Besler, the Galaxy's AJ DeLaGarza, and former Seattle player Jeff Parke, for their job at the back in decent seasons for their sides. But there is no room for Chivas USA's excellent goalkeeper Dan Kennedy after another solid year.

Other selections look more quixotic. Benny Feilhaber had a rough year with New Englandr, while Edson Buddle had minimal impact at the Galaxy. Both are at new clubs for the coming season (Feilhaber at Sporting KC, Buddle at Colorado). But Klinsmann may want a closer look with an eye to the sort of rehabilitation Johnson is enacting. And while the squad is mostly MLS-based there's room for Molde's Mix Diskerud, the currently clubless Alejandro Bedoya, and another look at Hertha Berlin fringe player Alfredo Morales.

Despite the fact that the camp is missing most of the likely first XI of Klinsmann's first choice side, this is a vital camp in its own way, since there will be precious little opportunity to experiment as the meaningful fixtures begin to pile up, and also the fact is that after you name say, the top 30 players in US contention, you quickly get into uncharted territory in terms of international experience, or knowledge of players likely to be able to make the step up. Even with the time Klinsmann has already had on the job, the chance to do some close up research is vital at this point, and as Cameron (now a first choice starter, and playing in the premiership) and Zusi (rapidly emerging as a possible long term contender to fill Donovan's shoes) can tell you - there's always something at stake in these camps, no matter what caveats the squad is announced with.

US Squad

Goalkeepers (3): Tally Hall (Houston Dynamo), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire)

Defenders (9): Steven Beitashour (San Jose Earthquakes), Tony Beltran (Real Salt Lake), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), A.J. DeLaGarza (LA Galaxy), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Connor Lade (New York Red Bulls), Alfredo Morales (Hertha Berlin/Germany), Justin Morrow (San Jose Earthquakes), Jeff Parke (Philadelphia Union)

Midfielders (8): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (out of contract), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg/Norway), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City), Joshua Gatt (Molde/Norway), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Forwards (5): Juan Agudelo (Chivas USA), Will Bruin (Houston Dynamo), Edson Buddle (Colorado Rapids), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)