The U.S. Men’s National Team isn’t going to be in Russia next week for the start of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
It’s a reality that keeps hitting fans harder as as 32 other nations set their sights on the sport’s biggest tournament.
While the current focus is on youth and gearing up for the 2022 World Cup cycle, not many of the young stars in the talent pool would’ve received a call-up if the USMNT qualified for Russia.
Banking on experience, in-form players and a the best of the young group, we took our best shot at predicting what the 2018 World Cup roster might have looked like:
Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Zack Steffen
Once seen as the most stable position on the roster, goalkeeper is suddenly becoming one of the top concerns moving forward for the USMNT.
The young collection of goalkeepers that was supposed to take over for Tim Howard and Brad Guzan never reached their full potential, which is why the experienced netminders would be on the plane to Russia.
Out of the next generation, Zack Steffen appears to be the frontrunner for the No. 1 shirt due to his tremendous form with the Columbus Crew over the last year-and-a-half.
Whether Steffen has the quality right now to start on the World Cup stage is up in the air, which is why he’s brought along in the squad to gain experience and kickstart the process for the 2022 World Cup cycle.
Missed the Cut: Bill Hamid, Ethan Horvath
DeAndre Yedlin, Jorge Villafana, John Brooks, Tim Ream, Geoff Cameron, Matt Miazga, Eric Lichaj
The integration of younger players in defense is going to have to wait until after Russia, as the Americans rely on more experience to get through another tournament.
DeAndre Yedlin and Jorge Villafana are locks to start at the two full back positions, while Eric Lichaj is a solid third option just in case one of the two is out of form or goes down.
John Brooks is the unquestioned No. 1 center back on the depth chart, and he is one of the first names written on the matchday lineup sheet.
Brooks’ center back partner would be up for debate between the experienced Geoff Cameron, the in-form Tim Ream or the face of the future Matt Miazga.
Cameron’s been paired with Brooks the most of the three, which would lead you to believe he’d be the frontrunner, but you can’t ignore the season-long catalog of performances Ream produced during Fulham’s promotion campaign.
Missed the Cut: Omar Gonzalez, Graham Zusi, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Walker Zimmerman
Michael Bradley, Christian Pulisic, Alejandro Bedoya, Weston McKennie, Fabian Johnson, Darlington Nagbe Wil Trapp, Gyasi Zardes, Paul Arriola
Before you lash out at Michael Bradley’s inclusion, he’s still one of the top five American players, and it would be silly not to have him captaining the squad in Russia.
Christian Pulisic, who is a potential future captain of the USMNT, is the second easy choice to make when selecting the midfield group. After that, it gets harder as we try and plug in players for the needs of the squad.
As the USMNT’s Swiss Army knife, Alejandro Bedoya receives a call for Russia, while Gyasi Zardes’ flexibility to start out on the wing shifts him into the midfield category.
Fabian Johnson brings pace on the wings, while Darlington Nagbe’s technical ability in the final third is vital for combination with Pulisic behind the forwards.
Paul Arriola serves as a well-rounded experienced part of the depth chart, or as a spot started in a group stage game in the tier of attack beneath the forward.
While Bradley may start by himself in defensive midfield, it’s wise to have an experienced body like Wil Trapp as his back-up.
The final choice in midfield comes down to Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams. Both players deserve the honor, but we’re going with experienced gained from a hardened league like the Bundesliga over MLS by a slight edge.
Missed The Cut: Tyler Adams, Wil Trapp, Kellyn Acosta, Benny Feilhaber
Clint Dempsey, Bobby Wood, Andrija Novakovich, Josh Sargent
With Jozy Altidore injured, the USMNT needs to find goals from somewhere else at a major competition once again.
Clint Dempsey is the obvious choice in terms of experience, and he’ll break Landon Donovan’s USMNT scoring record during the group stage.
Bobby Wood is in terrible form, and if he was representing any other country, he’d probably be on the outside looking in, but the USMNT forward depth chart is scant.
As the in-form member of the group, Andrija Novakovich receives a spot on the plane to Russia, while the raw talent displayed by Josh Sargent in small glimpses earns him the final spot on the roster.
Although the USMNT could’ve opted for older, more in-form options, Sargent is the future and it’s worth taking a chance on him.
Missed the Cut: Jozy Altidore, Dom Dwyer, Teal Bunbury