Landon Donovan, the United States' all-time leading scorer, was left off the 23-man squad named by Jurgen Klinsmann for the 2014 World Cup.
Donovan, with 57 international goals, was among 30 taken into training camp but didn't make the final cut for what would have been a fourth World Cup.
The 32-year-old had insisted he wasn't a lock to make the squad for the finals in Brazil.
He didn't figure prominently in the qualifying campaign, playing in just three of 10 matches in the final round after taking a nearly four-month sabbatical from the game.
But once the veteran -- the face of football in the United States -- was included in the 30-man preliminary squad many fans were certain he'd be going to Brazil.
Klinsmann, who helped Germany win the 1990 World Cup as a player and coached Germany to the 2006 semi-finals, said it was one of the toughest coaching decisions of his career.
"To tell a player like him, with everything he's done and what he represents, to tell him 'you're not part of those 23 right now ...'" Klinsmann said yesterday. "I just see some other players slightly ahead of him.
"His disappointment is huge," Klinsmann added. "He took it very professional because he is an outstanding professional player," he added.
"But I had to make decisions as of today ... I just think the other guys right now are a little ahead of him."
Klinsmann takes a relatively inexperienced squad for a World Cup campaign that sees the United States drawn in Group G along with Ghana, who reached the quarter-finals in the 2010 edition, Euro 2012 semi-finalists Portugal and one of the favorites for the trophy Germany.
They will kick off their campaign on June 16 against Ghana.
Also left off the squad was midfielder Maurice Edu. In naming the 30-man squad, Klinsmann said he saw Donovan as a pure forward rather than a midfielder. The forwards selected include young playmaker Aron Johannsson and 31-year-old Major League Soccer veteran Chris Wondolowski.
Johannsson scored 17 goals for Dutch club AZ Alkmaar last season, while Wondolowski was a hero of the US Gold Cup triumph last year with five goals in the first two matches.
Other notable inclusions are defenders John Brooks, Timothy Chandler and DeAndre Yedlin, as well as midfielder Julian Green.
Green, 18, is the latest dual citizen to declare for the Americans, asking FIFA for a citizenship change in March. He was born in Florida but moved to Germany as a toddler and had played for both countries in youth matches.
He made his first and only appearance for the United States as a substitute against Mexico in a friendly in April. "It's an exciting moment when you have narrowed the roster down as a coaching staff, and these 23 players that you've chosen can focus now purely on Brazil," Klinsmann said.
"We can go into more specific things about technical approaches, and about the opponents. For the players, it's very important to know that they are now part of it and they can relax and know they are on the list going to Brazil and taking it from there," he added.
"After almost 10 days of work right now, we thought the point has come to make the decision."
USA Soccer said the 23-man squad would be officially submitted to FIFA on the June 2 deadline.
USA 23-man squad
Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa/ENG), Tim Howard (Everton/ENG), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla/MEX), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin/GER), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/ENG), Timmy Chandler (Nuremberg/GER), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Moenchengladbach/GER), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC)
Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes/FRA), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg/NOR), Julian Green (Bayern Munich/GER), Jermaine Jones (Besiktas/TUR), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Sunderland/ENG), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar/NED), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes).