Graham Zusi is neither. At 25 years old, the classic late bloomer is from Longwood, Fla., a short distance away from Orlando, where he's the most notable inclusion on coach Juergen Klinsmann's roster for three friendlies and the first two matches on the road to qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.
What makes Zusi stand out isn't his pedigree, although it's hardly undistinguished. Blessed with skill on the ball and dangerous ability on free kicks, he helped lead Maryland to national titles as a freshman in 2005 and as a senior in 2008. After four years of college, he went a ho-hum 23rd overall in the 2009 MLS draft and made just 13 appearances as a rookie with Kansas City.
But he emerged as one of MLS' most dangerous players in the middle of Sporting Kansas City's attacking 4-3-3 formation last year with five goals and seven assists that helped it finish the regular season with the best record in the Eastern Conference. It also earned Zusi an invite to the annual U.S. camp in January. He made his international debut Jan. 21 against Venezuela and scored his first national team goal in a 1-0 win against Panama four days later.
With six assists already this season, Zusi impressed Klinsmann enough to earn a call-up over Sacha Kljestan, who just won the Belgian league title with Anderlecht, and New England midfielder Benny Feilhaber, who was a member of the 2010 World Cup squad.
- Craig Stouffer