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Fitness Evaluations First Step in World Cup Preparations

Heading into the final two Hexagonal matches of 2013 against Jamaica and Panama, U.S. Men's National Team Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann is already pushing the players to prepare for the increased intensity of play they'll find at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Although the tournament is still eight months away, the U.S. MNT has already started focusing on increasing its physical fitness.

Functional movement screening. Comprehensive blood testing. The VO2 max test. These are common elements of any January camp for the National Team when players are in preseason and need to establish a baseline for improvement. However, when this group arrived in Kansas City to start training for the final World Cup Qualifiers against Jamaica and Panama, these tests were the first thing on the schedule. The reason, according to U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, is simple. The demands of the World Cup are much higher, and the process of preparing begins now.

“The level in the World Cup is two or three levels higher, and the reality is that the last two years of World Cup Qualifying and the Gold Cup don’t give you the real picture,” said Klinsmann. “The global picture is facing the strongest nations in the World Cup, and you need to be prepared. It’s not easy to put a number on it, but it requires at least 30-40 percent more than what we have needed so far.”

Some of the tests are done frequently throughout the year, so the National Team staff can continue to monitor progress and provide feedback. With only five international fixture dates between now and next May, these opportunities to communicate information are critical.

“It’s crucial for us to benchmark them throughout the year and always have this data,” Klinsmann continued. “You need to be able to understand what players are going through, whether it’s injuries, losing form, or sometimes losing focus. We can tell them what they are lacking and where they can improve. The only time they can really work on these things is when they are with their club teams, so giving them feedback is really important.”

In a little more than eight months the whistle will sound to start the first game in Brazil, and there isn’t a moment to waste in getting ready. With the margin between success and failure at the World Cup so small, Klinsmann wants to leave nothing to chance.

”Now is a good time to deliver these messages because it tells them that we just started preparation for the World Cup and we can’t lose time. We have to attack things right away. We have to tell them in their faces where we are aiming for. We have to step up in every little element of the game to be competitive in the World Cup.”