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What happened to the United States' goalkeeper pipeline?

What once looked like a bottomless well of quality for the USMNT now looks all but dried up.

Ashley Allen/Getty Images

It wasn't all that long ago that the United States was bragging about their goalkeeper depth. With Tim Howard wearing the No. 1 shirt and Brad Guzan waiting in the wings -- not to mention the USMNT's long-established history of finding goalkeeping gems among their youth ranks -- USMNT fans felt that, no matter what, one position in the national team could be relied on for a long time to come.

Now, Howard is an aging shell of the player he once was. Guzan's quality has fallen off a cliff this season. And that pipeline of young talent? It's looking a little dry.

The situation has come to such a head that Jurgen Klinsmann can't decide which of Howard or Guzan should be the starter in goal anymore, and will instead platoon them in the United States' upcoming friendlies. An optimist might think that Klinsmann can't decide which goalkeeper is better, but someone who's watched them with Everton and Aston Villa this season would realize that the question is more one of who could potentially hurt the USMNT less.

That's a decidedly less-than-ideal situation.

The worst part is that there's no obvious solution to the problem. Nick Rimando has served well, but is slowing with age himself. Among the younger ranks, there's no clear successor right now -- Bill Hamid's development has been slowed by injuries, and he's in the middle of a long spell on the sidelines now. Sean Johnson's career has been a mixed bag of highs and some very low lows. William Yarbrough is as uninspiring an option as it gets. Anyone else is either too young, too inexperienced, too untalented or some combination of those three to be a real option to consider.

Until and unless Hamid can stay consistently healthy and improve as is hoped, there's no clear answer to the U.S. in goal. They'll have to keep limping on with an aging Howard and a seemingly broken Guzan, instead of being able to call on one of three or four other talented goalkeepers as they've been able to in years past.

Time was, top-shelf American goalkeepers used to struggle to get international appearances just because of how fierce the competition was -- now, USMNT fans are wishing they could reach back in time and pluck just one of those netminders out of the shadows and into the current national team squad. Remember the 2002 World Cup squad? They had an embarrassment of riches in goal, boasting Brad Friedel and Kasey Keller in their primes, plus the venerable Tony Meolla as a "just in case" option.

Just one of that trio would be a vast upgrade on the USMNT's current woes, and the comparison makes the national team's current dearth of quality options in goal all the more apparent. Whatever the cause of this weakness, the U.S. soccer player development system needs to figure it out and address it as soon as possible, before fans are left yearning for even today's less-than-stellar options to guard the goal.