New American citizen Julian Gressel earned his first call-up to the national team

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Over six MLS seasons, Julian Gressel made a strong case to someday earn a call-up to the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team. The problem was, he wasn’t yet a US citizen.

That part changed in November, and as the U.S. program entered a new World Cup cycle, Gressel was invited to the first training camp of the year, three people familiar with the matter said Friday.

The U.S. Soccer Federation is scheduled to name the MLS-heavy roster Wednesday and open camp Jan. 21 in Carson, Calif. In their first games since the World Cup, the Americans will play Serbia in Los Angeles and Colombia on Jan. 25. 28 in Carson.

The European players who formed the core of the team that reached the round of 16 in Qatar last month are unavailable because camps and matches take place outside FIFA’s international window. MLS teams opened training camps last week ahead of the Feb. 25 season openers.

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The U.S. Winter Camp is an annual tradition that allows the coaching staff to evaluate players that would otherwise likely not be considered when the full team is available. In Gressel’s case, it marks the first time he’s qualified for an invite.

The German native starred at Providence College and previously excelled with Atlanta United and D.C. United Moving to the Vancouver Whitecaps last summer. After marrying an American in 2018, Gressel became eligible for citizenship.

During his career, Gräsl was one of the top right-sided attackers in MLS. He has scored 21 goals and provided 60 assists as a forward, wing and wing back. In 2017, he was voted MLS Rookie of the Year. Gressel’s 13 assists for United two years ago were third in MLS. Last season, splitting time between DC and Vancouver, he posted two goals and nine assists in 30 appearances.

Whether he has a long-term future with the American program, however, is unclear. At 29 years of age, he is older than almost all players who get their first international call-up.

Gressel is expected to be one of several new faces in the American camp. Another choice, according to two people close to the situation, is 23-year-old defender Sam Rodgers for Norwegian club Rosenborg. (Like MLS, the Norwegian league does not play during the winter months.)

Assistant coach Anthony Hudson is overseeing camp while USSF continues to evaluate the program and weigh whether to retain Greg Berhalter, whose contract as the team’s coach expired Dec. 31. An independent investigation into the 1991 incident In which Berhalter admitted to kicking his future wife during a fight when they were college freshmen.

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