NEW YORK (AP)- The three most important words for American soccer players on Tuesday very well may be: "You've got mail!"
Players will be staying close to their cell phones and Blackberries because U.S. coach Bruce Arena will be announcing his 23-man World Cup roster.
"It's probably going to be contact by e-mailArena said late last week. "I have enough issues to deal with with the 23 rather than spending all the time on the ones that aren't part of it -- which is not to handle it lightly either. I will do everything I can to give these players their due respect but it's virtually impossible to deal with all of them on the phone."
Does he take Taylor Twellman or Brian Ching as a backup forward?
Will Carlos Bocanegra Cory Gibbs or Jimmy Conrad make it into the back line?
Have Clint Dempsey and Chris Albright earned spots for the first time?
In a sign of how far American soccer has come Arena has about three dozen capable players from which to pick. The final five spots on the roster are far more competitive than four years ago.
"I think you're always going to agonize over the last spots and this time around it's no different Arena said last week "but I do believe it is more difficult given that we have certainly players that deserve to be on this team and aren't going to be."
Barring injury issues these 12 spots seem set:
Goalkeepers: starter Kasey Keller and backups Marcus Hahnemann and Tim Howard;
Defenders: Steve Cherundolo Eddie Lewis Oguchi Onyewu Eddie Pope;
Midfielders: DaMarcus Beasley Pablo Mastroeni Claudio Reyna;
Forwards: Landon Donovan Brian McBride.
Six more players appear likely to make the team: defenders Gregg Berhalter and Frankie Hejduk; midfielders Bobby Convey and Dempsey; and forwards: Eddie Johnson and Josh Wolff.
That leaves five remaining places. Arena might well take Albright who can play defender and midfield; Ben Olsen a midfielder; and Twellman a reserve forward.
John O'Brien injured more often than not since the 2002 tournament is in a category of his own. He hasn't started playing regularly with Chivas USA after rehabilitating a groin injury and he has a strained left calf and didn't appear in Saturday's MLS game. But if Arena thinks he'll be healthy by the Americans' World Cup opener against the Czech Republic on June 12 he'll take him. If not that could open a spot for Steve Ralston or Pat Noonan who both have been trying to get fully fit.
Gibbs coming back from a long injury layoff might have an edge for the final defender spot over Bocanegra who hasn't been playing because of a bruised thigh.
Among those who could be left off are defenders Conrad and Todd Dunivant; midfielders Chris Klein Noonan Ralston and Kerry Zavagnin; and forwards Conor Casey and Ching.
"We have probably an additional three four five players that we that could have chosen Arena said. "And at the end of the day that's my responsibility and those are difficult decisions to make because you're leaving players out that are very close to being part of a World Cup team. I feel for those players."
Arena says picking the World Cup roster is the most difficult part of the job which he's held since 1998. He factors in both the abilities of the players and the likely demands of opponents. After playing the Czechs the Americans meet Italy on June 17 and Ghana five days later.
"It's a lot of detail work he said. "And in the end I'm confident the decisions that are going to be made are in the best interest of the team. That's it bottom line. We're going to put together the best 23 players possible to help make us successful."