One of the biggest questions surrounding the United States men's national team at the moment is who will back up the in-form Jozy Altidore when the Americans make the venture down to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
While that question may not be as big as the one about the starters in the back four, it is one that needs to be asked just in case something happens to Altidore in the next 12 months.
One of the unlikeliest of players that has made his way into the conversation to make the 23-man roster for Brazil is 20-year-old Jack McInerney, who plays for the Philadelphia Union in Major League Soccer.
McInerney has burst on to the national team radar this season by scoring 10 goals in his first 17 matches of the MLS season.
Those 10 goals have shown that McInerney is technically sound with his timed runs and that he is an opportunist in front of goal. All 10 of his goals this season have come from inside the penalty area.
Now, over the next month, McInerney will get a chance to prove to United States manager Jurgen Klinsmann that his form can be duplicated on the international level.
The player, affectionately known as Jack Mac, was one of five forwards named to Klinsmann's roster for the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup in the United States. The other four forwards named to the roster were Landon Donovan, Will Bruin, Chris Wondolowski and Herculez Gomez.
Out of those five forwards, McInerney is the one that can gain plenty of experience, and in the process, earn a spot on the United States roster for good.
Donovan's long road back to the United States roster has been well-documented, but at the end of the day he is a lock to make the trip to Brazil. However, Donovan will most likely end up playing on the wing instead of up front as a forward, leaving him out of direct competition with McInerney.
Gomez is a known quantity as well and he will be the favorite to earn the starting nod during the month of July, which begins with a friendly against Guatemala on Friday in San Diego.
Then there are Bruin and Wondolowski, whose inclusions to the squad seem a bit puzzling to fans of MLS that have seen both players not play up to the best of their abilities this season.
Bruin and Wondolowski have combined for less goals (nine) than McInerney has scored by himself this season and one must assume that they will be on the bench for most of July as veteran backups.
What all of this means is if McInerney impresses during his first spell with the United States in the next month, he will easily jump over Bruin and Wondolowski on the depth chart.
But how does the 5'10' forward compare to the likes of Terrence Boyd and Gomez, who will be his two main competitors for a spot on the United States roster for Brazil?
To start, McInerney is a different player than the duo of Gomez and Boyd, who are similar replacements to the physical style of Altidore up front in Klinsmann's system.
McInerney is more likely to find his way into the spot in the formation held by Clint Dempsey, who has played behind Altidore in the most recent CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers.
If Altidore were to go down with an injury or drop in form, the player to partner Dempsey up front will be a challenging question.
Some may say that Dempsey and McInerney have somewhat of the same style of play based on their height and runs on-and-off the ball.
With that being said, the logical choice to replace Altidore would be Gomez or Boyd, but neither of the pair have shown enough consistency up front for the national team to convince anyone that they could score goals at the highest level of the game on a consistent basis.
McInerney has proven, at least at the club level, that he can step in and be the main goal-scorer on a team.
If McInerney can do the same thing for the United States at the Gold Cup, he may very well find himself making the excursion down to South America next June.
Instead of having an unproven USMNT veteran like Gomez up front, a kid with nothing to lose and everything to gain like McInerney could be exactly what the doctor ordered for a team always looking for another attacking spark.
Do you think Jack McInerney will be a success at the international level for the United States?
Comment below or leave me a comment on Twitter, @JTansey90.
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