WASHINGTON - At the 2009 Confederations Cup, the United States will test their progress on the international stage en route to the 2010 World Cup, which they are a shoe in for as champions of their region.
The ambitious Americans would like nothing more than a promising performance against heavyweights Spain, Italy and Brazil a year ahead of the big show.
And they want to qualify for the final this time after finishing third twice before (1992 and 1999) under the guidance of Bob Bradley, who was assistant to former US boss Bruce Arena.
Bradley took charge after a group stage exit at Germany 2006 and has led the team to continental glory over old rivals Mexico at the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup, which qualified them for the Confederations Cup and set high expectations.
But a winless guest appearance at the Copa America and high-profile losses to England and Spain both earlier this year have the US questioning their place in the world's pecking order of nations once again.
And Bradley has cast his net wide expanding his pool of exciting youngsters including two 19-year-olds, Freddy Adu and Jozy Altidore.
Monaco-based Adu continues to be the wonderkid of US football, while Altidore became the first American to score in La Liga after his record transfer to Villarreal.
The coach's own son Michael (Heerenveen), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Maurice Edu (Rangers) and goalkeeper Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), who are 25 or younger, are eager for their chance.
The team's youthful profile is further illustrated by it's leaders Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy) and DaMarcus Beasley (Rangers) who are only just 26.
Donovan, the team's leading scorer with 37 in 105 caps, became the first-ever five-time winner of the US Player of the Year award
At the back, a pair of old hands, Carlos Bocanegra (Rennes), and net-minder Tim Howard (Everton), both 29, anchor a solid defence.
Said Howard: "We've gotten better at pushing teams into positions they don't want to be in, which is the key to staying competitive at the highest level." Sapa-dpa