Twenty-nine players under contract, three unsigned draft picks and two trialists: Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter has his work cut out for him in trimming the Crew roster to 30 players ahead of Major League Soccer's roster compliance deadline on March 1.
"We'll probably make some roster decisions on Friday, before we head down to Orlando," Berhalter told media members earlier in the week. "We'll probably trim the roster down a little bit. In terms of the 30 guys, we have some work to do to get to that spot.
"I'd say before Orlando [the roster will be at 30 players]."
The competition in Berhalter’s training sessions has intensified during the team's week in Columbus. Even the club's veterans have noticed a rise in the competitive nature of training as players battle to make the 30-man roster.
"It's really been intense," forward Dominic Oduro admitted. "All the guys are really pushing it. It's unfortunate that we have to have 30 guys on the roster, but it is what it is. That's the nature of the job. You've got to come out here, you've got to work. Everybody wants the job, everybody wants to be on the team. It's going to be a tough decision [for Berhalter], but so far everybody has been putting in 100-percent. Some guys have to be cut. That's just how it is."
Added defender Tyson Wahl: "It's been pretty competitive the whole time. The first week of preseason was just chaotic. The coaches organized it well, but everyone comes in super excited. So it was a little wild. Everything has kind of settled in and it's become kind of a more professional competition.
"This week has been turned up a level, I'd say."
Not only has the fight to make the team escalated, but Berhalter and his staff have also gotten a better idea of a starting lineup heading into the Orlando trip.
"We haven't really tipped our hand either way on who we're going to go with in a position, so the real competition hasn't started where [the players] are not competing against an individual," he explained. "I think they're competing collectively against the group. That will start coming in next week when we start playing lineups and we try to get guys more minutes and stuff. Then, I think that real competition is going to be there.
"As far as the coaches are concerned [the competition] is alive right now. We're evaluating that every single day."
The Crew kicks off play in the Disney Pro Soccer Classic Wednesday, February, 19 against Toronto FC at 1:00 p.m. ET.