1 Michael Bradley AGE: 25 DOB: 7/31/87 CLUB (COUNTRY) AS Roma (Italy) POS: MF
When Bradley landed at Roma over the summer, U.S. fans worried that playing time would be hard to come by in the Giallorossi's stacked midfield. Instead, Bradley has been a mainstay, while Roma legend (and Italian national team star) Daniele de Rossi -- long considered Francesco Totti's heir apparent as the club's captain -- has had a hard time getting off the bench.
2 Clint Dempsey AGE: 29 DOB: 3/9/83 CLUB (COUNTRY) Tottenham (England) POS: MF
That Deuce isn't atop this list says more about the season Bradley is having than anything else. Dempsey clearly has the confidence of Spurs coach Andre Villas-Boas, even if he hasn't always seemed to be on the same page as his teammates. Missing preseason while his move from Fulham was finalized certainly didn't help.
3 Landon Donovan AGE: 30 DOB: 3/4/82 CLUB (COUNTRY) L.A. Galaxy (MLS) POS: MF
Bradley and Dempsey may not have surpassed the country's all-time scoring leader this year had Donovan's head been right. The three-time World Cup vet is dealing with well-publicized motivation issues, but as his early 2012 loan to Everton showed, when he's at his best, no Yank is better. If he wants to, Donovan can compete for the top spot all the way to Brazil.
4 Tim Howard AGE: 33 DOB: 3/6/79 CLUB (COUNTRY) Everton (England) POS: GK
The veteran keeper has now made 200 consecutive EPL starts, and he has backstopped Everton to within reach of a Champions League berth this season. For the U.S., he's been even better. The famous 2012 road wins in Italy and Mexico (and last month's tie in Russia) probably don't happen without Howard in net.
5 Fabian Johnson AGE: 25 DOB: 12/11/87 CLUB (COUNTRY) Hoffenheim (Germany) POS: D
When U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann says that Germany's senior team would love to have Johnson -- the dual citizen played for Die Mannschaft's youth teams before committing to the U.S. last year -- you wonder if German coach Jogi Low told him as much himself. The slick-passing Johnson has been among the best left backs in the Bundesliga all season.
6 Jermaine Jones AGE: 31 DOB: 11/3/81 CLUB (COUNTRY) Schalke (Germany) POS: MF
Jones' club résumé is as impressive as any Yank; the Chicago-born, Frankfurt-raised hard man is the only American projected to start in the knockout rounds of the Champions League next year. Some U.S. fans love to hate the Schalke vet -- who admittedly plays better for club than country -- yet Jones remains central to Klinsmann's plans, too. That's no accident.
7 Steve Cherundolo AGE: 33 DOB: 2/19/79 CLUB (COUNTRY) Hannover (Germany) POS: D
Only one American captains a club in a top-four European league, and that's Cherundolo. How much longer will the diminutive right back -- who has worn the armband for Hannover since the start of the 2010-11 season -- compete at the highest level? Who knows? But right now, that's what he does each and every week.
8 Geoff Cameron AGE: 27 DOB: 7/11/85 CLUB (COUNTRY) Stoke City (England) POS: D
The ex-Houston Dynamo standout has been close to an automatic starter since arriving in England in late August, helping Stoke claim the third-best defensive record in Europe. As if that's not impressive enough, Cameron has mostly played right and left back for the Potters, despite being a central defender for his country.
9 Timmy Chandler AGE: 22 DOB: 3/29/90 CLUB (COUNTRY) FC Nuremberg (Germany) POS: D/MF
If he's in, he's in the top 10. With youth, skill, size and a well-schooled soccer brain, Chandler -- who insists he's committed to the Yanks' cause after almost two years on the fence -- has huge upside. He's also versatile, and he's rapidly gaining valuable experience in one of Europe's elite leagues.
10 Jozy Altidore AGE: 23 DOB: 11/6/89 CLUB (COUNTRY) AZ Alkmaar (Netherlands) POS: F
With 15 goals in 19 games for AZ, Altidore is having one of the best seasons an American has ever had overseas. That success hasn't yet translated to the national team -- Altidore went scoreless for the U.S. in 2012, most of which he spent in Jurgen Klinsmann's doghouse -- but it has piqued the interest of clubs across the continent.
11 Brad Guzan AGE: 28 DOB: 9/9/84 CLUB (COUNTRY) Aston Villa (England) POS: GK
After four years in England, Guzan is finally Aston Villa's first-choice keeper. That he supplanted Irish veteran Shay Given says plenty about how highly he's regarded there. Guzan has been one of Villa's few bright spots this season, and while fellow Premier Leaguer Howard remains the undisputed U.S. No.1, Guzan's recent play makes him No. 1a.
12 Brad Friedel AGE: 41 DOB: 5/18/71 CLUB (COUNTRY) Tottenham (England) POS: GK
Although he retired from international play in 2005, Freidel has been as good as any U.S. player since. So while Big Brad might never wear the U.S. crest again, he remains among the most respected active Yanks -- even after his record streak of 314 straight EPL starts came to an end earlier this season.
13 Carlos Bocanegra AGE: 33 DOB: 5/25/79 CLUB (COUNTRY) Racing Santander (Spain) POS: D
He's on the inevitable downslope of a decorated career, but few American defenders can match Bocanegra's experience, leadership and ability on set pieces. Those qualities keep the U.S. captain an important part of the national team, which will continue to rely on him during the final round of World Cup qualifying, although perhaps not all the way to Brazil 2014.
14 Graham Zusi AGE: 26 DOB: 8/18/86 CLUB (COUNTRY) Sporting KC (MLS) POS: MF
Zusi's stock rose as much as anyone's in 2012, when he went from January camp afterthought to World Cup qualifying starter and MLS MVP finalist. "Zeus" beat out teammates with better résumés along the way, displaying an international-class engine and pinpoint service from the right flank. He's poised for an even bigger role next year.
15 Herculez Gomez AGE: 30 DOB: 4/6/82 CLUB (COUNTRY) Santos (Mexico) POS: F
The Las Vegas native's club season ended quietly after a noisy start to 2012, but with the national team it was the opposite. After being ignored for the first three U.S. games of the year, Gomez started the Yanks' final 10 matches -- including their six World Cup qualifiers -- scoring three goals.
16 Danny Williams AGE: 23 DOB: 3/8/89 CLUB (COUNTRY) Hoffenheim (Germany) POS: MF
Williams would have been higher on this list in September, after his breakout game for the U.S. in Columbus against Jamaica. He's been inconsistent since, and his club is facing relegation from the Bundesliga. The German-born player didn't make Hoffenheim's 18 last weekend. His status with the Yanks -- and on this list -- could slip if he can't win his spot back soon.
17 Sacha Kljestan AGE: 27 DOB: 9/9/85 CLUB (COUNTRY) Anderlecht (Belgium) POS: MF
Kljestan's play this season earned him respect across Europe (Anderlecht shared a Champions League group with AC Milan, Malaga and Zenit St. Petersburg) as well as a recall to the U.S. squad. He has yet to secure his spot on Klinsmann's roster, but his playmaking, toughness and attention to defensive detail have improved greatly since he left MLS in 2010.
18 Terrence Boyd AGE: 21 DOB: 2/16/91 CLUB (COUNTRY) Rapid Vienna (Austria) POS: F
With nine league goals this season, his first as a first-team pro, Boyd is among the top scorers in the Austrian Bundesliga. He was also a regular call-up for the U.S. this year, although he was left off the roster for its most recent qualifying matches. Still, Boyd's willingness to fight should help him keep climbing the ranks.
19 Omar Gonzalez AGE: 24 DOB: 10/11/88 CLUB (COUNTRY) L.A. Galaxy (MLS) POS: D
The 2012 MLS Cup MVP won't have to wait long to show he's ready for the next level; Gonzalez gets his first chance to impress the U.S. staff next month -- unless he transfers to a European club first, something Galaxy coach Bruce Arena won't rule out. Either way, Gonzalez provides a defensive presence and set-piece threat that few Yanks can offer.
20 Eric Lichaj AGE: 24 DOB: 11/17/88 CLUB (COUNTRY) Aston Villa (England) POS: D
Since the end of last season, Lichaj has played in 22 of 25 Premier League games for his huge, if struggling, English club. He's won over two separate Villa managers during that time, and many players on this list don't have the experience the Illinois native has already accumulated. Bet on him working his way into the U.S. squad in 2013.
21 Michael Parkhurst AGE: 28 DOB: 1/24/84 CLUB (COUNTRY) FC Augsburg (Germany) POS: D
Parkhurst impressed for Danish team Nordsjaelland in Champions League group stage games against Chelsea, Juventus and Shakhtar Donetsk -- and those performances helped him land with Bundesliga side Augsburg, which he'll join Jan 1. Parkhurst also appeared in a career-high six games for the U.S. in 2012, proving himself a capable backup at both right and left back.
22 Eddie Johnson AGE: 28 DOB: 3/31/84 CLUB (COUNTRY) Seattle Sounders (U.S.) POS: F
The 2006 World Cup vet ended the year with aplomb for both club and country. The question is, can he pick up where he left off in the new year? Johnson's career has been plagued by inconsistency, but when he's on -- and he was for most of 2012 -- EJ is still among the country's most dangerous strikers.
23 Oguchi Onyewu AGE: 30 DOB: 5/13/82 CLUB (COUNTRY) Malaga (Spain) POS: D
Gooch has struggled mightily with fitness, but much of that is due to the laundry list of injuries Onyewu has battled over the last three years. He may take a while to recover, but when he's healthy and in form, he's still among America's best defenders. Gooch isn't there yet, but he's played six games for Malaga since Oct. 31.
24 Mikkel Diskerud AGE: 22 DOB: 10/2/90 CLUB (COUNTRY) Rosenborg (Norway) POS: MF
The rangy playmaker rebounded from the U.S. U-23 squad's failure to make the Summer Olympics by excelling with his native Norway's most-accomplished club. Mix brings something different to the U.S. attack, and he has already performed with the senior team (against South Africa in 2010 and in Russia last month) despite limited action.
25 Juan Agudelo AGE: 20 DOB: 11/23/92 CLUB (COUNTRY) Chivas USA (MLS) POS: F
2012 was a mostly year to forget for Agudelo, another would-be Olympian who was traded from New York to the opposite coast in May. But the young striker still has enough skill to change a game at the international level, like when he deftly set up Bradley's goal against Russia last month.