You can't leave Landon Donovan off the World Cup roster. You just can't.
Come with whatever logic you want. He's not the spark plug he used to be. The younger guys need the experience for future trips. He reportedly doesn't get along the best with men's national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann. Yada yada.
All those reasons for keeping him off pale in comparison to the reasons for keeping him on. Even if all those knocks against Donovan are a given, it's not enough to leave him off. You you at least name him to the roster and not start him. But you put him on the roster.
For one, this is Landon Donovan we're talking about. For many, there is no soccer in America unless he's playing.
He's the most recognizable name in American soccer. He's a major supplier, at least in recent years, of the nation's limited men's soccer memories. He's earned the respect of a roster spot, even if ceremonially.
People want to see Donovan play. They want to buy his jersey and scream at the TV on his corner kicks. You can't leave him off the team.
The argument that he's old and washed up, and it's time to move on, that only really applies when there is something to win. The U.S. men's soccer team will not win the World Cup. It is not even in the conversation to win the World Cup.
Keeping Donovan on the team or not isn't the difference between a championship or nah. Just like keeping a youngster yet to enter his prime doesn't hurt, especially since he's going to sit on the bench and "get experience."
With that said, let's not just presume Donovan is washed up. At his best, he is still pretty good. He's got enough savvy to offset some of the issues that come with his declining speed. When he's motivated, he can still produce, even in spots. You've got to presume he'd be motivated for the World Cup.
Why would Klinsmann not want that experience at least coming off the pine? Why remove Donovan's flair for the dramatic, his knack for making something happen, the attention he still draws, from the arsenal of options?
The U.S. is facing a daunting task getting out of group play anyway. Making the knockout round would be a feat among feats. Who gives you the best chance of pulling it off? Julian Green? Or Donovan on his last hurrah?
The 18-year-old midfielder has a chance to be good. But Green has plenty time to get experience. He can get his international caps over the next four years.
Soccer has long faced a struggle gaining a slice of America's attention. Klinsmann's decision to leave Donovan off disrespected the strides Donovan made in that area.