U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann snubbed the Americans' all-time leading scorer for the last round of qualifiers, saying Donovan needed to work his way back onto the team following his offseason sabbatical.
But Donovan redeemed himself - and then some - with his play in last month's Gold Cup, scoring five goals as the Americans won the title. He's continued his dazzling play with the Los Angeles Galaxy, scoring four goals in three games.
So when the United States resumes its qualifying campaign Sept. 6 in Costa Rica, Donovan will be on the roster, and quite likely on the field.
The Americans return home four days later for a game against archrival Mexico in Columbus, Ohio.
The United States is on a national record 12-match winning streak that has it atop the qualifying group from North and Central America and Caribbean region.
"The Costa Rica game in San Jose is the biggest game in 2013 for all of us because we want to win there," Klinsmann said. "We want to qualify as soon as possible for the World Cup in Brazil. We want to get the first-ever three points in World Cup qualifying in Costa Rica."
Also on the 23-man roster are 11 players who were part of the Gold Cup winning squad: Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Kyle Beckerman, Alejandro Bedoya, Matt Besler, Edgar Castillo, Mix Diskerud, Omar Gonzalez, Eddie Johnson, Michael Orozco and Nick Rimando.
"Everyone needs to understand there will be a lot of tension," Klinsmann said. "We need to be very well prepared mentally and physically and give them a real game. And if you look at the quality of our roster and our players, we have the quality to get the three points."
Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake);
Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City) John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Michael Orozco (Puebla);
Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Roma), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Jermaine Jones (Schalke), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City);
Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders FC).