Spending the first three weeks of January in sunny California sounds like the ideal vacation.
But U.S. national team coach Bob Bradley won't be visiting Disneyland or taking in a Los Angeles Lakers game during his stay in the Golden State. Instead, he'll be totally focused on putting his players through their paces during the team's annual training camp in preparation for the World Cup in June.
With most of the U.S. team's regular starters — including Landon Donovan, Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey — currently playing in England, Bradley's 30-man camp is made up entirely of players from Major League Soccer and Scandinavian clubs on winter break.
That suits Bradley just fine, because even though he has a good nucleus already in place, several players are currently on the bubble and the camp will provide him with the opportunity to give them another look, as well as create competition for places on the 23-man World Cup roster.
"We have a solid core and that's our starting point, but we certainly go into 2010 knowing that we still need to add the right players, to give us depth and that begins right away [with this camp]," Bradley told CBCSports.ca.
"It gives us a good starting point for assessing this group as we move forward to South Africa."
One of the players looking to impress Bradley will be Robbie Rogers.
The Columbus Crew midfielder has established himself as one of the elite midfielders in MLS the past few seasons, but he's only managed to earn nine caps for the U.S. national team. A strong showing at this camp could give Bradley something to think about when he's finalizing his World Cup squad.
"I want to show that I have something to add to the team," Rogers told The Associated Press. "I know the team needs some players who are creative, who can attack with speed but also work hard.
"Whenever you're in front of these coaches, you want to be sure you're professional and you're good for the team."
The January camp ends with an exhibition game against CONCACAF rival Honduras on Jan. 23.
The U.S. has been attempting to set up a February friendly at home against Mexico before jetting off to Amsterdam for an exhibition match against the Netherlands on March 3.
While the U.S. is getting ready for its sixth straight World Cup appearance, Honduras last played in the competition in 1982, and with the tournament fast approaching, the Jan. 23 game is a rare chance for both teams to test themselves against a top-notch opponent before going to South Africa.
"It's a good test for us to look at players in a competitive situation," Bradley said.
The U.S. will play in Group C in South Africa with games against England (June 12), Slovenia (June 18) and Algeria (June 23).
U.S. 30-MAN TRAINING CAMP ROSTER:
- Goalkeepers: Kevin Hartman (Kansas City Wizards), Troy Perkins (Valerenga, Norway), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake), Zach Thornton (Chivas USA)
- Defenders: Kevin Alston (New England Revolution), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City Wizards), Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (IK Start, Norway), Chad Marshall (Columbus Crew), Brandon McDonald (San Jose Earthquakes), Heath Pearce (FC Dallas), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC)
- Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Orebro, Sweden), Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Benny Feilhaber (Aarhus, Denmark), Eddie Gaven (Columbus Crew), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Jeff Larentowicz (New England Revolution), Dax McCarty (FC Dallas), Chris Pontius (D.C. United), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew)
- Forwards: Justin Braun (Chivas USA), Conor Casey (Colorado Rapids), Jeff Cunningham (FC Dallas), Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake), Marcus Tracy (Aalborg, Denmark)