The United States has several competent, tested defenders on its back line heading into ths World Cup, but choosing the four starters is still a constant source for debate.

More specifically, finding a starter at left back is one of the tasks on head coach Bob Bradley's pre-World Cup checklist. The main concern is whether to employ the speedy, yet less-experienced Jonathan Bornstein, or captain Carlos Bocanegra. Most American fans prefer the latter.

"I don't mind playing out there," said Bocanegra, who plays on the left for his French club team, Rennes. "We have Johnny Bornstein and Heath Pearce as well. I said it's just going to be a tactical decision by Bob [Bradley] ... I'm happy to play either."

When asked the uncomfortable question of why the left back position has been a challenging role to fill for the U.S. through the years, Bocanegra's response was matter-of-fact and drew some laughs.

"I don't know, I played there in 2006, so ..." he said dryly. "I'm sure other countries around the world, they don't have every single position filled as strongly as they would like. I think we have some good options and we'll see how it goes."

At this point, Bradley does have several permutations for his back line, with no position written in stone. Stalwart center back Oguchi Onyewu would normally be the rock in the middle, but he hasn't played a game since the fall. It's a safe bet, however, that he'll be out there against England.

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The right side is simply a choice between Jonathan Spector, 24, and veteran Steve Cherundolo. Spector likely has a slight edge over Cherundolo at this point. Though Spector can play over on the left, he said earlier this week at camp that he prefers the right side. If Cherundolo, who started all three games in Germany on the right side, sneaks in to claim his position, American fans wouldn't be too concerned as both have proven capable of handling their business on the flank.

After that, it gets dicey. Jay DeMerit exudes the toughness that American fans love and is a worthy option to fill the other center back position. His inclusion in the starting lineup pushes Bocanegra out on the left, although he's spent a majority of his recent time with the U.S. in the middle.

Heath Pearce, of course, is in the same boat as Bornstein, and provides more of an attacking option out of the back.

At the moment, I can't see DeMerit getting benched, unless his nagging abdominal injury keeps him sidelined. Given his proven toughness, I can't see him letting Bradley keep him there, meaning the back line of Bocanegra -- Onyewu -- DeMerit -- Spector is an inevitability this summer.


Photo credit: AP | Carlos Bocanegra, left, scores a goal against the Netherlands during a friendly match March 3 in Amsterdam.