Besler, Zusi to join U.S. Men’s Team for World Cup qualifiers

Matt Besler


Graham Zusi


Sporting Kansas City defender Matt Besler was named to the U.S. Men’s National Team ahead of crucial World Cup qualifying matches against Honduras on March 24 and Panama on March 28.

Besler is added to head coach Bruce Arena’s 25-player roster alongside New York Red Bulls midfielder Sacha Kljestan, who is a replacement for the injured Bobby Wood.

Besler will be joined on the U.S. MNT squad by Sporting KC teammate Graham Zusi, who replaced the injured Fabian Johnson in a roster change.

The United States will now prepare for an all-important World Cup qualifier versus Sporting KC midfielder Roger Espinoza and Honduras on Friday at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, California. The contest will kick off at 9:30 p.m. on FS1, UniMas and UDN. Four days later, the Americans will travel to face Panama at Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City, live at 9 p.m. on beIN SPORTS, Telemundo and NBC Universo.

The U.S. MNT is off to an 0-2-0 start in the Hexagonal, which serves as CONCACAF’s final qualifying round for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Eight games still remain for all six teams in the Hex, with the top three finishers automatically advancing to the World Cup and the fourth-place finisher meeting an Asian country in a two-legged playoff in November.

Losses to Mexico and Costa Rica at the end of 2016 have given Arena’s men extra impetus to #Get3 against fourth-place Honduras, which enters Friday with one win and one loss.

Besler, 30, has 39 career caps for the United States, including 10 international appearances in 2016. He earned two starts at the Copa America last summer before scoring his first U.S. goal in a World Cup qualifying win over St. Vincent and the Grenadines in September.

A native of Overland Park and the first Kansan to play for the U.S. Men’s National Team, Besler has featured regularly along the Americans’ backline since debuting in 2013. The center back helped lead the U.S. to the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup title and started all four matches at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil as the MNT reached the Round of 16.

Besler joined Sporting Kansas City in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft out of the University of Notre Dame and has since become one of the club’s most decorated players. In addition to winning the 2013 MLS Cup and the 2012 and 2015 U.S. Open Cups, Besler has garnered MLS Best XI (2012-13), MLS All-Star (2011, 2013-16) and 2012 MLS Defender of the Year honors during a successful professional career.

Now in his ninth MLS season, Besler has made 242 appearances for his hometown club in all competitions – fifth most on Sporting Kansas City’s all-time charts. Since 2011, no MLS player has contributed to more shutouts in the regular season than Besler’s 56. During the same timeframe, he also leads MLS in clearances and ranks second in interceptions.

Zusi, 30, has earned 44 caps for the U.S. since 2012, recording five goals and six assists. He most recently captained the side in a 1-0 friendly win over Jamaica last month, and also played five matches at the 2016 Copa America last summer. The Longwood, Florida, native tallied two assists in four appearances at the 2014 FIFA World Cup and also competed at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

An eight-year veteran of MLS, Zusi joined Sporting Kansas City in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft out of the University of Maryland. He has amassed 29 goals and 60 assists in 229 competitive appearances for the club, ranking second on Kansas City’s all-time assist chart. He has started the first two MLS matches of 2017 at right back, helping Sporting KC to a pair of clean sheets.

In addition to winning the 2013 MLS Cup and two U.S. Open Cups, Zusi has landed numerous individual accolades during his professional career. He notably received MLS Best XI (2012-13) and 2011 MLS Breakout Player of the Year honors and was the only player to appear in every MLS All-Star Game from 2012-2015.

– Information from Sporting KC

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