The US Men’s National Team roster for this year’s World Cup was announced on Wednesday. Most of the players on the roster were expected, but there were some surprises after Gregg Berhalter’s team selection.
Excitement for the United States’ return to the World Cup has been steadily building over the past few months. Here is a look at some of the decisions Berhalter made ahead of the US’ first game against Wales on November 21.
Zack Steffen Not Selected for World Cup
For most of the United States World Cup qualifying process, Zack Steffen was the team’s starting goalkeeper. He has made 29 appearances for the national team during his career so far.
However, somewhat unexpectedly, Gregg Berhalter chose not to include Steffen on the United States World Cup roster. Instead, Sean Johnson, Ethan Horvath, and Matt Turner were the goalkeepers selected by Berhalter.
Turner, who plays for Arsenal, is expected to be Berhalter’s preferred starter during the tournament. Wednesday night, the decision not to include Steffen was one of the coach’s most surprising, considering Steffen’s role during the qualifying process.
Steffen is currently on loan at Middlesborough in the EFL Championship from Manchester City. He has made 16 starts in the Championship for Middlesborough, who are currently 16th in the Championship, this season, including four clean sheets.
If the US defense does not play well at the tournament over the next month, Berhalter’s decision on which goalkeepers made the World Cup roster will likely affect the way fans view the team’s performance.
Tillman, Pefok, and Pepi Not Included On United States Roster
Berhalter’s decision to not include three forwards, Malik Tillman, Jordan Pefok, and Ricardo Pepi, was another one of the most discussed team selection choices on Wednesday night.
Similarly to Steffen, Pepi was one of the United States’ most important players during the qualifying process. As other players had injuries during qualifying games, Pepi scored three goals in 10 CONCACAF qualifying appearances to help ensure the US qualified for the World Cup.
However, Pepi was signed by FC Augsburg in the Bundesliga in January, and in 16 games, he did not score a goal for the team. He has since joined Eredivisie team FC Groningen on loan, where he has scored six goals in nine games. Despite his solid performances in the Eredivisie, Berhalter chose not to include him on the US World Cup roster.
Another Bundesliga forward who had a chance to join the World Cup team was Jordan Pefok. Pefok was one of the best players in the Swiss Super League last season, scoring 22 goals for BSC Young Boys, and signed with Union Berlin in the Bundesliga prior to this season.
Union Berlin has had an incredible start to this season and is currently second in the Bundesliga after leading the league for most of the season. Pefok has played well for the team, scoring three goals in the league along with three assists, but Berhalter chose to select Jesus Ferreira, Josh Sargent, and Haji Wright for the United States roster instead.
Another player Berhalter could have possibly selected for the United States team is Malik Tillman, who currently plays for Rangers in Scotland on loan from Bayern Munich. Tillman has performed incredibly well for Rangers, scoring three goals along with two assists in the Premiership. He can also play multiple positions, both as a midfielder and a winger.
However, Berhalter chose not to include the 20-year-old on the World Cup roster, instead selecting other players, such as MLS midfielder Cristian Roldan and forward Jordan Morris. As a result, Tillman likely won’t play in his first World Cup until 2026.
The United States will begin the World Cup on November 21 against Wales. They will hope to finish first or second in Group B, which also includes Iran and England, and advance to the Round of 16.