The World Cup countdown has begun, and teams will be battling it off in Qatar before you know it. The agony of the U.S. men’s national team’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup is finally over, and now supporters can look forward to another exciting competition. USMNT boss Gregg Berhalter and his coaching team will spend the next several months finalizing the roster, so we take matters into our own hands and guess who will make the first XI cut come mid-November.
Keepers have been platooned throughout qualifying, but opting for a single one is critical for stability throughout the tournament. Zack Steffen, Manchester City’s backup goalkeeper, is facing off against Matt Turner, a recent Arsenal signing. As impressive as both players were in qualifying, we believe the English Premier League’s first few months will have a significant impact on Berhalter’s final decision. Things may be looking up for Turner, as we do not anticipate Steffen to receive too many minutes while competing with one of the best goalkeepers in the world. That may change soon, as the citizens are looking into loan options for him before the Premier League season begins.
The right- and left-back positions seem to have Sergino Dest’s and Antonee Robinson’s names written all over them. Nashville SC’s Walker Zimmerman is a definite starter at center back, but who will play alongside him is a significant question mark. Red Bull’s Aaron Long is a strong contender, but he faces competition with Man City’s Erik Palmer-Brown and Celtic’s Cameron Carter-Vickers. The latter had a fantastic 2021/2023 season, tallying up 7 appearances in the Uefa Europa League and Uefa Conference League. And that’s on top 39 appearances in the Scottish League and Cup. All three have been tried at center back since Miles Robinson dropped with an Achilles injury, while Chris Richards is also a solid competitor to start. The FC Dallas product has been on FC Bayern München’s books since 2018, being loaned out to TSG 1899 Hoffenheim on two occasions. French giants Olympic Lyonnais are looking for his signature, with the 32-time Bundesliga champions looking for a fee in the region of €15 million.
The USMNT has a plethora of options in this part of the field. Berhalter and his team have the luxury of picking from Juventus’ Weston McKennie, along with Leipzig’s Tyler Adams, Valencia’s Yunus Musah, LAFC’s Kellyn Acosta, and Chelsea’s superstar Christian Pulisic. The latter has been among the headlines lately, with Juventus evidently interested in adding another USMNT player to their books. Everyone seems to have high hopes for the 23-year-old, as he’s also being tipped to finish among the USMNT top scorers in Qatar by some of the most reputable NJ sports betting platforms, like bet365 and BetMGM.
Suppose Berhalter goes on to play with a 4-3-3 formation. In that case, we’d imagine the obvious choice for the midfield three to be Yunus Musah, Weston McKennie, and Tyler Adams. Christian Pulisic would then join in on the left side flank.
It’s wingers galore at the USMNT. Christian Pulisic and Tim Weah seem to have already cemented their place on the wing. Then there’s the choice of Paul Arriola, Brenden Aaronson, Jordan Morris, and Gio Reyna. The big question is who’s going to play up top. Ricardo Pepi of Augsburg hasn’t scored in God knows how many matches. Jordan Pefok of Young Boys and Daryl Dike of West Brom failed to capitalize on their opportunities, while Colorado’s Gyasi Zardes and Norwich’s Josh Sargent may not be the most solid of choices. Although he’s not a traditional target man, Dallas forward Jess Ferreira has already scored nine goals in 2022 MLS, and he may have the best shot at starting. Or could Berhalter deploy a false-9 formation with one of his outstanding midfield/winger options and then swap them out as necessary? Well, perhaps, we’ll need to wait to find out!