ST. PAUL - Minnesota United striker Christian Ramirez has earned his first invitation to train with the U.S. men's national team.

On the verge of a call-up for years, Ramirez is among 30 players to join the country's top team for its January camp starting Wednesday in Carson, Calif., U.S. Soccer announced Monday, Jan. 8. The Garden Grove, Calif., native could make his first appearance for the U.S. in a friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina on Jan. 28 at StubHub Center in Carson. The Loons open camp Jan. 22 in Blaine.

"I am truly humbled to be called up," Ramirez said in a statement. "This is fulfilling a lifelong dream and an opportunity that I never thought would be possible. I'm motivated to fully take the opportunity that's in front of me and give it everything I have."

After successful seasons in the lower levels, Ramirez scored eight goals in his first 14 games in MLS last season but was left off the U.S.'s Gold Cup roster last summer. Pundits considered it a snub.

"The Gold Cup was the opportunity," Ramirez lamented in June.

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But Ramirez, 26, continued to score goals in MLS in 2017. His total of 14 in 30 games, excluding penalty kicks, were the most for an American in MLS. C.J. Sapong, who has received national team call-ups, had 13, and regular U.S. starter Jozy Altidore had 10.

While Ramirez was bummed to not get the call last summer, he tried to remain optimistic. "If that call ever comes, I will be blessed to be able to do it," he said.

Ramirez, who has scored 67 goals in 125 appearances in all competitions with Minnesota since 2014, is the second United player to be included with the nation's top team. When the Loons were in the North American Soccer League in October 2014, midfielder Miguel Ibarra became the first lower-level player to be called up to the national team since 2005. The Lancaster, Calif., native made three appearances in matches for the U.S.

Last fall, the U.S. failed to qualify for this summer's World Cup in Russia, its first absence since 1986. Under acting U.S. head coach Dave Sarachan, the U.S. will have six forwards on the January roster: Ramirez, Sapong, Juan Agudelo, Dom Dwyer, Jordan Morris and Rubio Rubin.

The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.