The All Whites are facing the prospect of attempting to qualify for next year's Confederations Cup without influential skipper Winston Reid and fellow defender Tommy Smith, prompting an appeal to Phoenix captain Andrew Durante to come out of international retirement.
It's understood Reid has informed coach Anthony Hudson he won't be coming to the OFC Nations Cup in Papua New Guinea in late May and early June. There's also doubt Smith, who has often filled in as skipper in Reid's absence, will be available for the PNG tournament either.
It has prompted Hudson to send an SOS to Durante to tempt him from the international wilderness. Durante played in Hudson's first game as coach against Uzbekistan in 2014 but didn't feature again under Hudson and he announced his international retirement in August. The Australian-born naturalised Kiwi is seriously considering the offer, especially with the carrot of playing at next year's Confederations Cup in Russia.
Reid has been anything but a constant in the New Zealand side in recent years, having played in just two of Hudson's six matches in charge and 13 of the 33 full internationals played by New Zealand since the 2010 World Cup. He has been troubled by niggling injuries during the Premier League season but recently returned to first team action with West Ham.
The All Whites are due to gather for a two-week training camp in Australia on May 14 as preparation for the eight-team Nations Cup tournament, which starts on May 29. West Ham's final Premier League game of the season is scheduled for the same day as the start of the camp.
West Ham could also be involved in the FA Cup final at Wembley a week later. That would leave Reid less than a week to travel from London to PNG before the tournament's first game.
Hudson is still working through details of player availability for the tournament and said it would be unfair to comment on individuals until the squad has been finalised.
Reid's withdrawal is a big blow for New Zealand. As well as being captain, he is easily the side's best player and widely regarded as one of the best defenders in the Premier League. His presence alone would give New Zealand a psychological edge over their Pacific Island opponents.
It would also be the second time he has missed this tournament, having pulled out just days before the disastrous 2012 Nations Cup campaign in Honiara with a groin injury. Ryan Nelsen also missed that tournament through injury.
Smith's club side Ipswich Town are in the hunt for a Premiership playoff place - they're currently four points outside the playoff spots with 10 games to go. The playoff final is at Wembley on May 29, the same day New Zealand open their OFC Nations Cup campaign against Fiji.
It's imperative the All Whites have a strong side in PNG because the winner qualifies for the Confederations Cup - and receives US$1.5 million to help prepare - and it is also the first stage of World Cup qualification. The tournament is hugely demanding with five games in 13 days which is a leveller for New Zealand, who do better home-and-away rather than at tournaments.
Also doubtful is PEC Zwolle starlet Ryan Thomas, who underwent knee surgery earlier this year. Fullback Storm Roux, attackers Henry Cameron and Joel Stevens and midfielder Alex Rufer have already been ruled out with long-term injuries.
Durante's return would mirror that Ivan Vicelich, who retired from international football in 2007, only to answer an emergency call from then coach Ricki Herbert to replace Nelsen ahead of the 2009 Confederations Cup. Vicelich went on to play a key role in qualification for the 2010 World Cup and eventually played the last of his 88 full internationals in November 2013.