Monday was the deadline for teams going to the World Cup to trim rosters down to the final 23-man squads.
Some moves were surprises, others were not, but what transpired on roster cutdown day will add more drama to the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Shocking omission for Germany: The defending World Cup champions are loaded with talent. Nothing exemplified that more on World Cup roster cutdown day than the exclusion of Leroy Sane from the team’s 23-man roster. Sane was the English Premier League’s Young Player of the Year for a Manchester City squad that ran away with the league title. Sane was the first German to ever earn that award, and seemed to be a lock for Germany’s World Cup roster. Coach Joachim Low surprised nearly everybody by picking Julian Brandt of Bayer Leverkusen instead.
Germany’s sweeper keeper is in: Manuel Neuer missed nearly the entire 2017-18 Bundesliga season with a foot fracture, but the sweeper keeper will be headed to his third World Cup as the team’s No. 1 goalkeeper. Until a friendly against Austria on Saturday, Neuer hadn’t played a competitive match since September. FC Barcelona’s Marc-André ter Stegen had done an admirable job filling in, helping Germany win the Confederations Cup last summer. Low had said that if Neuer were healthy enough to play, he would be the top choice in goal when the defending World Cup champions play Mexico on June 17.
2014 heroes left out: The two players who combined for the winning goal in Germany’s 1-0 triumph over Argentina in the 2014 World Cup final — Andre Schurrle and Mario Gotze — didn’t even make Germany’s 28-man provisional roster. Low’s bold moves will be watched very closely during the course of the next month or so.
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No USMNT, but MLS still well-represented: Nineteen Major League Soccer players from 11 teams are on World Cup rosters representing six nations across four confederations (Costa Rica, Egypt, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Sweden). Costa Rica and Panama each have six players on their respective World Cup rosters who play in Major League Soccer. The record for most MLS players at a World Cup was 21 in 2014, with 10 of those players on the U.S. roster.
Expansion LAFC paces league: Los Angeles FC might be just a few games into its existence, but the first-year club has an MLS-leading three players going to this year’s World Cup. That’s two players shy of the most ever for an MLS team. That honor, somewhat surprisingly, belongs to the Columbus Crew in 1998. At that year’s World Cup in France, Thomas Dooley, Brian Maisonneuve, Brian McBride and Juergen Sommer represented the U.S.; Andy Williams represented Jamaica (1998 is also the only time Jamaica has qualified for the World Cup, in case you were curious).
MLS’s best shot at a champion: LAFC defender Laurent Ciman was named as a stand-by player for Belgium in the event of an injury. If he gets called into the team (and there’s a decent chance this happens with injury concerns surrounding Vincent Kompany), Ciman might represent the best chance of any MLS player to hoist the World Cup trophy. No active MLS player has ever won the World Cup. There have been 11 previous World Cup winners to play in Major League Soccer (Lothar Matthaus, 1990 Germany; Branco, 1994 Brazil; Youri Djorkaeff and Thierry Henry, 1998 France; Denílson, Kaká and Kleberson, 2002 Brazil; Alessandro Nesta and Andrea Pirlo, 2006 Italy; David Villa, 2010 Spain; Bastian Schweinsteiger, 2014 Germany). At least one player from each World Cup winner going back to 1990 has played in Major League Soccer, so the league is destined to employ a member of this year’s winner sometime in the future.
Mexico calls on Marquez, again: Rafa Marquez is only the fourth player in history to go to five World Cups (2002, 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018). The other three were Mexico’s Antonio Carbajal, Germany’s Lothar Matthaus and Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon. Had Italy not failed to qualify for this year’s World Cup, there is no doubt Buffon would have made Italy’s World Cup roster for an unprecedented sixth time.
Is Neymar healthy enough? On Sunday, Neymar played for the first time — and scored a goal in a 2-0 win over Croatia — since he broke a bone in his right foot in February while playing for his club team, Paris Saint-Germain. Clearly, Neymar’s overall fitness will be key to Brazil’s World Cup title hopes.
Mo Salah: Despite suffering a shoulder injury and being subbed off early in the UEFA Champions League final against Real Madrid, Salah — who is coming off a breakthrough season for Liverpool — is expected to recover and play some role for Egypt as the nation makes its first World Cup appearance in 28 years.
Aussie vet going to Russia: The 38-year-old Tim Cahill, who spent four seasons with the New York Red Bulls in MLS, is going to his fourth World Cup. If he can score a goal, he will join Brazil’s Pele and Germany’s Uwe Seeler and Miroslav Klose as the only players to score in four World Cups.
English clubs pace the world: In all, there are 124 players who play professionally in England — either in the Premier League, The Championship or below — according to FIFA. That is the most for any nation, by far. Spain is second with 78 players.