Christian Pulisic raised a lot of eyebrows earlier this week when he told ESPN that the U.S. had the intention of winning this year’s World Cup. Any player and team should go into a competition believing they can win it, but many expect the 2026 World Cup to be the first time the U.S. men’s national team will be a contender to win the tournament.

How far can the United States advance at the World Cup this fall? Where is the national team headed in the future?

The Final Preparations for 2022

While most of Gregg Berhalter’s team for this year’s World Cup has likely already been selected, there are a few key positions where Berhalter and his staff have decisions to make. The next few months ahead of the beginning of the World Cup will be key as the coaching staff finishes selecting the roster and preparing for the tournament.

Center-forward might be the most significant position battle ahead of the World Cup. There is a group of players at the position who could be on the team; Ricardo Pepi, Jesus Ferreira, Josh Sargent, Haji Wright, Jordan Pefok, Daryl Dike, and others.

However, Berhalter and his coaching staff still haven’t decided upon a starter at the position. Many of the decisions over who will start, and make the team, for this year’s World Cup will be determined by how each player performs at the club level over the next few months.

Outside of center-forward, both center-back and goalkeeper have important position battles. Miles Robinson was set to be one of the starters at center-back earlier this year before an injury, and now Chris Richards, Cameron Carter-Vickers, and Aaron Long are competing to start alongside Walker Zimmerman. Berhalter and his staff will want to use the team’s friendlies in September to establish the defense ahead of the World Cup.

Perhaps the most important competition ahead of the start of the World Cup is who will be the team’s starting goalkeeper. Zack Steffen and Matt Turner have both started games for the United States over the last few months, and it is still unclear which one of them will start in the United States’ first match against Wales on November 21.

Steffen recently joined Middlesborough on a loan from Manchester City to ensure he plays consistently this fall ahead of the World Cup. Meanwhile, Turner joined Arsenal earlier in the summer and will play in some of the team’s Europa League games and in the FA Cup and EFL Cup while competing with Aaron Ramsdale to start in the Premier League.

Which goalkeeper starts at the World Cup likely won’t be determined until just before the tournament begins. However, it could have a massive impact on how successful the United States is at the tournament.

The Expectations for the 2022 World Cup

The United States’ group at this year’s World Cup features Wales, England, and Iran. The U.S. will be well positioned to advance in the tournament, but it could also be one of the youngest teams at the tournament.

England is one of the tournament favorites and one of the best teams in the world. They reached the semi-finals in 2018 and finished the tournament in fourth place. This year, the team could be even better, and will hope to win their first World Cup since 1966.

Wales is led by Gareth Bale and qualified for their first World Cup since 1958 this year. The United States and Wales played in 2020, where they finished with a 0-0 draw. Iran is appearing in their third consecutive World Cup after finishing third in their group in 2018, where they were one point away from advancing to the Round of 16.

Most of the players on this year’s World Cup team for the United States likely won’t have World Cup experience. The team did not qualify for the tournament in 2018, but before then the United States had reached the Round of 16 in both 2014 and 2010.

While the goal is to win the World Cup, the U.S. team will benefit from gaining experience in the tournament ahead of hosting the World Cup in 2026. Reaching the knockout stages of this year’s tournament could help the team take the next step in future tournaments.

The Outlook for the Future

The U.S. will have a great opportunity to have success in this year’s World Cup, and the future could be even more exciting. The current group of young players for the United States could be one of the best in the history of U.S. Soccer.

As a result, by 2026, the United States could be a favorite when they host the World Cup. The current group of young players, such as Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Gio Reyna, Brenden Aaronson, and others should all be in the best years of their careers in 2026.

This year’s World Cup provides an opportunity for the team to have one of its best ever performances at the tournament and the chance to gain experience for the future. As the sport continues to grow in the United States, the national team could be entering one of the best eras in its history.

 


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