McCarthy has impressed in goal for Reading at the back end of the season and the 23-year-old has been rewarded with his first senior call-up.
Striker Andy Carroll, on loan at West Ham from Liverpool, has also been recalled by Hodgson for the games against Ireland at Wembley on May 29 and the trip to Brazil on June 2.
Hodgson is yet to make a call on who will captain the side in the absence of the injured Steven Gerrard.
The manager said Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney were the "captains elect" although he will also speak to Ashley Cole, who is due to receive his 100th cap before the game against the Republic of Ireland.
"Lampard and Rooney are the captains elect, but I'll speak to Ashley Cole; he's receiving his 100th cap," he told a press conference.
"Most players who receive their 100th cap do receive the honour of captaining the country.
"But the last time I spoke to Ashley about it he was happy to stay in the shadows. Out of courtesy I'll speak to him as I will with Frank and Wayne when we get together."
Hodgson said he would be comfortable handing Rooney the armband despite his future at Manchester United being unclear.
Rooney handed in a transfer request last week and was left out of the squad that beat Swansea 2-1 in Sir Alex Ferguson's final game in charge at Old Trafford on Sunday.
"His situation at Manchester United is between him and the club. It doesn't really impact on me with England as long as he is fit and playing football," he said.
"There is no doubt that he's doing that and there's no doubt in my mind about his commitment to England."
Hodgson also denied Rooney might lack match-sharpness after falling out of favour with his club.
"I have to debate one of your points - that he's had limited time," he said.
"He didn't play in the last game but in the games he's started, he might not have finished the 90 minutes, but he's played pretty regularly. When you tot up his games he'll be nudging 50 rather than 38."I'm not concerned about his playing time."
The team is notable for the absence of Rio Ferdinand, who retired yesterday from international football, and John Terry.
While Ferdinand's England career is over, it is understood his Chelsea counterpart would be willing to end his exile.
Hodgson wants to look to the future but he also explained why he has refused to categorically state he would never turn to the likes of former England skipper Terry.
He told Sky Sports News: "I think it is very foolish to say I would never do this or I would never go down this route.
"Who knows? We actually played a long time without Rio and then suddenly I found myself before the last two internationals in a very difficult situation, we lost four centre-backs we had chosen.
"So Rio very much came back into the frame and now he has disappeared again because he has retired from international football.
"The way he has handled himself with all his statements and everything have been very laudatory.
"Basically we are preparing to move on.
"I think Rio's statement summarised it all quite well.
"He's had a fantastic time, 15, 16 years around the international team.
"He feels it is time for some of the younger players now - or not just the younger ones, people like Phil Jagielka who isn't that young but has been waiting in the wings for a long time.
"He feels it is time for the younger ones or those waiting in the wings to step up and they can show that they can do for the international team what Rio and John did for so long.
"I don't want ever to have a situation where we might need to turn to somebody and for everybody to say 'you said he would never play again'.
"I've seen it with (former Manchester City manager) Roberto Mancini - he said with Carlos Tevez he would never play for this club again and of course he ended up playing for them again."
Hodgson said McCarthy had deserved his first call-up after impressing for Reading since returning from an injury that ruled him out for the majority of the campaign.
He was in inspired form against Manchester City on Tuesday night, and Hodgson revealed the decision to select McCarthy had only been made in the past couple of days.
"I thought now with Alex having done so well in the games I've seen him play and in the reports I've received of his, this is a good chance to bring him in behind Joe Hart and Ben Foster," he said.
"We'll see how he copes with being in a senior squad. He deserves his place because he's played well."
"I have to be honest I haven't had a chance to speak to him. We made the decision to take him just a couple of days ago and I've been in Amsterdam.
"I'm rather hoping you don't need to speak to someone to give them the news. I hope when he hears the news today he'll be very happy and I'm looking forward to spending some time with him when we meet up.
"It is important to give these young players a chance to show us what he can do."
Hodgson hinted McCarthy might not get the chance to make his debut, however, as he looks to use on the players he is likely to rely upon in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
Asked if McCarthy could play, he said: "Not necessarily no. I regard them as preparation games rather than friendly games.
"I'm more interested in this squad to give the players who I think might be more important to us in the qualifiers in September and October a chance to really play."(I don't want) a situation where in every game you are trying to use 18 players instead of playing long periods and instead getting a 15-20 minute cameo."
Hodgson insisted he had no qualms about the physicality of Carroll on the international stage.
Carroll has impressed for West Ham and the England boss feels he offers the team a different outlet.
He told Sky Sports News: "In a squad of players you need various qualities among your players.
"You don't necessarily fill your team with players who are much of a muchness, who virtually clone each other.
"It is very good to have some on your team who give you another dimension because games pan out in different ways.
"For a long time we didn't consider Andy Carroll because he was injured but since he has come back from injury he has always been very much in our thoughts.
"I think he is the type of player who gives another dimension to our squad and gives us other possibilities if we care to use them.
"I'm not concerned about his playing style
"There is always going to be room for a centre-forward of his class, his type who is good at holding the ball up, very good at attacking crosses."