With Joachim Löw due to name his preliminary squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup on 15 May, time is running out for Germany's fringe players to impress the 57-year-old ahead of the finals in Russia.

Ahead of March friendlies against Spain and Brazil, bundesliga.com has identified five uncapped but in-form stars who could yet force their way into Löw's plans for Die Mannschaft's World Cup defence this summer...

Philipp Max, Augsburg

Position: Left-back
2017/18 league appearances: 21
Goals: 1
Assists: 11

Even the most optimistic of Augsburg supporters would not have expected Max to be mentioned in the same breath as Neymar and Kevin De Bruyne at the mid-way point of the 2017/18 campaign, but there is no denying the former Bayern Munich youth-team player deserves the favourable comparisons with some of world football’s biggest - and most expensive - names.

With an astonishing 11 league assists this season, only PSG magician Neymar and Manchester City schemer De Bruyne have laid on more goals in Europe's top five leagues than the 24-year-old full-back. Max's driving runs and pin-point deliveries from the left wing won’t have escaped the attentions of Löw, whose assistant coaches Thomas Schneider and Oliver Sorg have regularly been sighted at the WWK Arena this season.

Watch: Max's assists in 2017/18

"He has taken a giant step here in the past year," said head coach Manuel Baum. "I think you could take a look at Philipp [in terms of national team selection] and see how he fits into the overall idea of the Germany team, whose game is largely based on controlled possession."

Indeed, if Max can maintain his remarkable Hinrunde form in the second half of the 2017/18 season, taking him to Russia may prove too great a temptation for Germany's World Cup-winning coach.

Maximilian Philipp, Borussia Dortmund

Position: Forward
2017/18 league appearances: 13
Goals: 6
Assists: 2

A knee ligament injury sustained in the 1-1 draw with Bayer Leverkusen on Matchday 14 is likely to keep Philipp sidelined until March, but if the 23-year-old can replicate his early-season form in the remaining months of the campaign, he might just secure a spot on the plane to Russia.

Having joined the Yellow-Blacks last summer on the back of an outstanding campaign for newly-promoted Freiburg, Philipp flew out of the traps in 2017/18 with six goals and two assists in ten league outings prior to his injury at the BayArena. Blessed with outstanding technique, blistering pace and the ability to play in every position across the frontline, Philipp has drawn favourable comparisons with another waylaid Dortmund attacker, namely Marco Reus.

Maximilian Philipp has six goals and two assists in 13 Bundesliga appearances for Borussia Dortmund this season.
Maximilian Philipp has six goals and two assists in 13 Bundesliga appearances for Borussia Dortmund this season. © imago

Like his 28-year-old team-mate, Philipp faces a race against time to prove his fitness and form ahead of the tournament. Löw certainly isn't short of options in the attacking department, with the likes of Mesut Özil, Thomas Müller and Leon Goretzka virtually guaranteed a place in his squad, but a strong end to the campaign would give Philipp a fighting chance of featuring at the finals.

Niclas Füllkrug, Hannover

Position: Forward
2017/18 league appearances: 26
Goals: 10
Assists: 2

Füllkrug for Germany? What seemed unthinkable mere weeks ago is fast becoming a distinct possibility for the well-travelled 24-year-old frontman, who had spent his last four seasons in Bundesliga 2 prior to Hannover’s promotion to the top flight in May.

Having taken a while to adjust to life back in the Bundesliga, the former Werder Bremen, Nuremberg and Greuther Fürth forward has embarked on an astonishing purple patch between 24 November and 21 January, netting seven goals in as many league appearances.

Watch: Füllkrug's perfect hat-trick on Matchday 18

His match-winning performance against Mainz in December, when his 'perfect' hat-trick rescued an unlikely victory from the jaws of defeat, caused the rest of the Bundesliga to sit up and take note, but Füllkrug may need to produce such performances on a more frequent basis in order to break into Löw's squad.

Sven Ulreich, Bayern Munich

Position: Goalkeeper
2017/18 league appearances: 21
Clean sheets: 10
Save percentage: 74.4%

Filling in for Bayern and Germany's No.1 goalkeeper is no easy task, but Ulreich has underlined his growing reputation with a string of impressive performances that have seen the 29-year-old emerge from Manuel Neuer's shadow in recent months.

Yes, he may be protected by the likes of Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng and Niklas Süle in front of him, but the statistics don’t lie: Ulreich's shot-to-save ratio of just under 75 per cent makes him the best German goalkeeper in the Bundesliga, and the second best overall behind Bremen's Jiri Pavlenka.

Watch: Ulreich's best Bundesliga saves

"He's gained the team's respect and has become even stronger after working with our goalkeeping coach Tony Tapalovic,” enthused Jupp Heynckes following Bayern's 1-0 victory at Stuttgart in December, in which Ulreich saved a last-minute penalty from Chadrac Akolo. "He's confident and it goes without saying that I have faith in him."

Having deputised for Neuer at club level since the 31-year-old suffered a recurrence of a foot injury in mid-September, one could argue that no-one is better equipped to fill in for the three-time UEFA Goalkeeper of the Year should he fail to prove his fitness in time for Germany's opener with Mexico on 17 June.

Mark Uth, Hoffenheim

Position: Forward
2017/18 league appearances: 24
Goals: 10
Assists: 2

With nine goals from 17 league encounters, Uth ended the Hinrunde as the Bundesliga's joint top-scoring German striker. He has since been overtaken by Freiburg's Nils Petersen, Hannover's Füllkrug and RB Leipzig's Timo Werner, but his early-season performances won’t have gone unnoticed by Löw and his coaching staff.

After scoring twice against Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League play-off in August, the former Heerenveen striker then became the first Hoffenheim player to register a brace against Bayern in a 2-0 win over the record champions in September, proving that Uth has what it takes to mix it with the best in the business.

Schalke-bound Mark Uth has found the net 10 times for Hoffenheim so far in 2017/18.
Schalke-bound Mark Uth has found the net 10 times for Hoffenheim so far in 2017/18. © imago

He has never been capped by Germany at senior level, but having been deprived of an out-and-out centre-forward since Miroslav Klose’s retirement in 2014, Löw must be sorely tempted to take a closer look at the Cologne-born forward in Die Mannschaft’s friendlies against Spain and Brazil in March. Few would argue that Uth would deserve the opportunity to stake his claim for a place in Russia.

Click here for more Bundesliga news and features!