2-1. The United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) famously lost to Trinidad and Tobago on the final matchday of the final round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying, failing to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986.
You’d expect the USMNT to be in pretty much every World Cup because of the sheer size of the country compared to its North American compatriots that it competes against. Mexico has always been a formidable opponent and finishing behind them is undesired, but acceptable. Canada hasn’t been a feature in the final round of World Cup Qualifying in decades, up until this term.
All the remaining countries are small Central American nations that may have more of a national focus on soccer but have a clear disparity in the amount of talent they have to choose from. So, when the USMNT missed the World Cup in 2018, it was big. It was embarrassing.
A New Look
Afterward, the U.S. went a different direction, phasing out old players and scheduling friendlies where they would continuously break records for the youngest U.S. side to ever be fielded. The rebuild of U.S. soccer has been long and testy, but more USMNT players are playing for top-tier European clubs than ever.
In the 2014 World Cup Squad in Brazil, the USMNT was made up of almost half MLS players, and the other half, although playing around the world, for the most part, had little impact on Europe’s big leagues.
So what’s new about this USMNT team, and why do we have to wait until 2026? Well, this team is just too young right now. Not only that, they often come up disorganized and undisciplined. It can sometimes be obviously clear that the players just need years together to gel like the U.S. teams of the early 2010s.
On top of that, coach Gregg Berhalter has way more options to choose from. As more and more Americans are making a difference in Europe, it only makes his squad selection more difficult, and inconsistent, as he searches for players in form. On top of that, current MLS players are becoming more talented as the growth of the league continues, which opens up opportunities for those players to get into the squad.
Why 2026 is the Year
Come 2026, the U.S. will jointly host the expanded World Cup alongside Canada and Mexico, and the squad selection should be easier as the players will be older by then, and some will inevitably fall out of form for their European teams and go to smaller leagues should they fail to reach their potential. But, even if some of the current youngsters disappear, there are just so many of them that it’s almost certain the U.S. can field a team in 2026 with experienced players with European backgrounds.
There will probably have to be some experienced players in the 2022 squad when the U.S. qualifies (they are in a good position to do so but you never know), which are important to have around the big stage, but most, if not all of whom play in America and haven’t gone up against top-tier talent from around the world. This is why their chances in 2022 in Qatar are slim. But the future is bright for Americans. If these players continue to play together and build a rapport, they can achieve similar success to the 2010 and 2014 teams, and they could go even further on soccer’s biggest stage.
The following is a list of players who will be in contention for the 2022 World Cup Squad and who could have a significant impact come 2026
- Matt Turner, Arsenal (England), 27
- Zack Steffen, Manchester City (England), 26
- Ethan Horvath, Nottingham Forest (England), 26
- Sergino Dest, Barcelona (Spain), 21
- Reggie Cannon, Boavista (Portugal), 23
- Antonee Robinson, Fulham (England), 24
- Miles Robinson, Atlanta (USA), 24
- Mark McKenzie, Genk (Belgium), 22
- Chris Richards, Hoffenheim (Germany), 21
- George Bello, Armenia Bielefeld (Germany), 20
- Justin Che, Hoffenheim (Germany), 18
- Sam Vines, Antwerp (Belgium), 22
- James Sands, Rangers (Scotland), 21
- Joe Scally, Monchengladbach (Germany), 19
- Shaq Moore, Tenerife (Spain), 25
- Yunus Musah, Valencia (Spain), 19
- Weston McKennie, Juventus (Italy), 23
- Luca de la Torre, Heracles (Netherlands), 23
- Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig (Germany), 22
- Gianluca Busio, Venezia (Italy), 19
- Owen Otasowie, Club Brugge (Belgium), 21
- Christian Pulisic, Chelsea (England), 23
- Brenden Aaronson, RB Salzburg (Austria), 21
- Ricardo Pepi, Augsburg (Germany), 18
- Timothy Weah, Lille (France), 21
- Jesus Ferreira, Dallas (USA), 21
- Caden Clark, RB Leipzig (Germany), 18
- Matthew Hoppe, Mallorca (Spain), 20
- Josh Sargent, Norwich City (England), 21
- Jordan Pefok, Young Boys (Switzerland), 25
- Konrad de la Fuente, Marseille (France), 20
- Giovanni Reyna, Borussia Dortmund (Germany), 19
- Daryl Dike, West Brom (England), 21
- Nicholas Gioacchini, Montpellier (France), 21