U.S. Hot List: Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey finding form at the right time
Sunday is when the United States national team roster for next month's World Cup qualifying matches, at St. Vincent and the Grenadines and in Jacksonville, Fla., against Trinidad and Tobago, is expected to be announced.
And at this late stage, Jurgen Klinsmann has more likely than not already made his picks.
But while a number of the 11 names below will surely be included on the squad list -- one that could be larger than usual if the coach is considering releasing players to their clubs should the Americans secure a place in the final "hexagonal" round of CONCACAF qualifying after the first game -- a few others are here more because of recent developments and their long-term prospects within the U.S. program.
Here's who is trending up (and down) in the U.S. team this week:
Jozy Altidore, FW, Toronto FC
Why he's here: Now with four goals in his last five appearances -- his last this powerful solo effort in TFC's 3-1 win at Philadelphia on Saturday night -- Altidore is playing his best soccer since 2012-13, when he scored 31 goals in all competitions for Dutch club AZ Alkmaar.
What this means: Altidore's recent strike rate has been off the charts, averaging a goal every 60.5 minutes since July 31. He has yet to play 90 minutes for the Reds since returning from a hamstring problem last month and so Klinsmann may still want to ease him in slowly but the 26-year-old, who has three strikes in four U.S. games in 2016, is making a strong case to start both qualifiers.
Matt Besler, DF, Sporting Kansas City
Why he's here: A knee injury forced him to miss five weeks plus last month's MLS All-Star game, but Besler returned to the SKC lineup on Saturday and helped his team pitch a clean sheet against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
What this means: A healthy Besler is good news for club and country, no doubt. But his extended absence -- the 29-year-old was last seen for Sporting way back on July 13 -- means it wouldn't be a shock if Klinsmann leaves him home this time.
Clint Dempsey, FW, Seattle Sounders
Why he's here: As with Altidore, his timing couldn't be better. Dempsey added two more goals in Sunday's 3-1 win against the Portland Timbers, giving him five (and one assist) in his last three games.
What this means: With Bobby Wood having just made his preseason debut for Bundesliga side Hamburg on Monday, don't be shocked if Dempsey and Altidore, whose spot Wood filled admirably at Copa America, resume their partnership up top next month.
Brad Guzan, GK, Middlesbrough
Why he's here: Guzan made his first start in Boro's second game of the Premier League season on Sunday, leading his new employer to a 2-1 win at Sunderland.
What this means: Guzan got the nod after ex-Barcelona keeper Victor Valdes was injured in training and played well overall. He should keep his place at least for Middlesbrough's next match, Wednesday's League Cup tilt vs. Fulham. That should assuage any concerns about the 31-year-old's match fitness heading into the international break.
Lynden Gooch, MF, Sunderland
Why he's here: The 20-year-old made his second straight start for Sunderland and went 90 minutes in the loss to Guzan and Co. He was involved throughout, too, mostly on the left wing and was named the Black Cats' man of the match.
What this means: The sudden emergence of Gooch is exciting for the national team. But the former U.S. under-20 is still more likely to get his maiden senior invite in October, when the Americans play friendlies against Cuba and New Zealand, than before two important World Cup qualifiers. Besides, staying in England this time around might keep him in rhythm and help him hold onto his place under David Moyes.
Josh Gatt, MF, Molde FK
Why he's here: Gatt didn't even feature in Sunday's 4-2 win against Odds BK in the Norwegian Tippeligaen, but the 24-year-old winger, who won the last of his two U.S. caps in early 2013, deserves a mention for making manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's 18-man squad after missing most of the last three years because of knee injuries.
What this means: It's way too early to talk about Gatt in the context of a national team return, but credit to the Michigan native -- once one of America's hottest prospects -- for making it back.
Julian Green, MF, Bayern Munich
Why he's here: Green, 21, played the final 24 minutes of Bayern's 5-0 German Cup rout of lower division Carl Zeiss Jena last Friday.
What this means: It's a promising sign than Green will get at least some time off the bench for Carlo Ancelotti's side this season, if he's not sold or loaned before the Aug. 31 deadline.
Geoff Cameron, DF, Stoke City
Why he's here: The center-back dressed but didn't play in either of Stoke's first two Premier League games.
What this means: The 31-year-old joined up late for preseason after his stellar run for the U.S. at Copa, then took ill on the eve of the new season. But as long as Cameron sees minutes either in the midweek cup game against Stevenage or Saturday's Premier League match at Everton, Klinsmann won't be overly concerned.
Fabian Johnson, DF, Borussia Monchengladbach
Why he's here: The versatile German-American played a combined nine substitute minutes in Gladbach's two most recent matches.
What this means: We'll have a better sense of where Johnson stands in manager Andre Schubert's pecking order this time next week; the club plays a Champions League playoff-round match against Switzerland's Young Boys before opening Bundesliga play against Bayern Leverkusen on Saturday. Either way, only injury will prevent him from lining up at left-back for the U.S. next month.
Darlington Nagbe, MF, Portland Timbers
Why he's here: Since returning from Copa America duty, Nagbe has no goals and two assists in 12 games for the Timbers. The MLS champions have gone 3-6-3 during that span.
What this means: To be fair, Portland's recent struggles aren't all down to Nagbe. But there's still a sense that the midfielder could do more to impose himself during games, both at the club level and with the national team.
Christian Pulisic, MF, Borussia Dortmund
Why he's here: The 17-year-old was left out of Dortmund's squad for last week's German Super Cup loss to Bayern and, while he made the roster for Monday's cup match against Eintracht Trier in place of injured Mario Gotze, he didn't see the field.
What this means: In terms of his long-term prospects? Nothing. Those remain sky-high. But in the short term and as a practical matter, the attacking players BVB signed this summer -- specifically Gotze, Ousmane Dembele and Andre Schurrle -- appear to have impacted the youngster's minutes already.
So, if he's not going to go on loan, it may be difficult for Pulisic, who made nine Bundesliga appearances (four starts) and scored two goals in the second half of the 2015-16 season, to play on a regular basis early on.
Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.