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Gaining experience is the goal for Sargent, Weah at U-23 level


One of the major complaints from fans when U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Gregg Berhalter released his roster from next weekend’s friendlies was the absence of young European based players, specifically Josh Sargent and Tim Weah. Both have experience with the side in the recent past and it was thought the new boss would take this opportunity to get a good look at how these two budding talents would fit into his current plan.

However, Berhalter wants guys like Weah and Sargent to gain experience by playing significant minutes at the U-23 level instead, a decision he explained in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday.

“When we looked at players that were U-23 eligible and weren’t necessarily going to be in our starting group we had to weigh if is it more beneficial for them to try to play full international games at a level where they can gain confidence and potentially bring that back to their clubs and then get a boost in performance with their clubs,” he said.

Sargent and Weah aren’t the only players left behind. Djordje Mihailovic had a strong January Camp but won’t be there next week. Erik Palmer-Brown, Antonee Robinson, and Cameron Carter-Vickers are making strides in Europe and will likely feature for the U-23s despite recently appearing at the senior level.

Sargent and Weah were the two names that stood out though, and they were also the ones Berhalter mentioned specifically.

“I’ve spoken to many of the players that I’m sure I’ll be asked about that aren’t in camp and I told them exactly where they stand,” he said. “I told them why they weren’t involved in this camp in particular and I also stressed how important it is for them to keep trying to be playing with their clubs. I spoke to Josh and Tim specifically.”

Trying to get more playing time at the club level is a concern. One knock against these two is that they aren’t playing much at all right now. Sargent may have a pair of goals with Werder Bremen, but he only has one start in league play and has only played 200 minutes since his debut in December. Even Weah only has eight total appearances since January despite the positive early reviews of his loan to Celtic.

Berhalter would rather see these two, and others in similar situations, worry about finding playing time with their clubs to gain more high profile minutes.

Although Berhalter never mentioned it, there is the issue of the upcoming qualifying tournament for the 2020 Olympics next October. That event is the only true reason for having a U-23 team and the United States hasn’t qualified for either of the last two tournaments. Getting back there has to be a priority and Weah and Sargent, should they be released by their clubs, would figure to be key players for that squad. Allowing them to gel with other players at that level would benefit the team’s efforts to accomplish that goal.

But overall, the decision to leave them off the team was about allowing the young players to develop at a level where they will play significant minutes. Placing them on the USMNT roster and having them sit on the bench won’t do them any good, and, while the level of competition may not be as high, Weah and Sargent will certainly play a lot with the younger team. Berhalter is framing it that way, as well as a chance for each of them to prepare themselves to get into the senior team in the future.

“We’re looking at this from a big picture standpoint,” Berhalter said. “The big picture is Tim and Josh have the opportunity to play at the U-23 level to gain experience. I see them as very much a part of this group moving forward and this is a way for them to keep playing and get on the field.”

The details for the upcoming U-23 camp have not been finalized, but there will be one and both Sargent and Weah will be there as long as their parent clubs release them for duty. The squad also needs a coach and the federation is “deep into the hiring process” according to Tuesday’s conference call.


  1. Bottom line Mexico always qualifies for youth tournaments because their best young players play in liga mx usually. That league pays well and MLS does not for our best youth. Thus our kids go over to Europe better competition and $. MLS is worried about fan interest and pays the big $ to foreign acquisitions yet USSF seems to want to put an emphasis on MLS players which is fine if they’re the best talent. That’s not the case as we have seen for years. Honestly Berhalter has no European connections or pull perhaps a coach of higher caliber and pay might have some sway that European clubs would be more willing to release players. But to say a few guys who played very well over the last year need mire seasoning or playing time is the same old tired bs we heard from every guy since Steve Sampson. Juergen even somehow gave certain guys mire looks when a call up seemed difficult(green for example). I’ll give Berhalter a real chance but if Gild Cup does not advance our whole program and yield solid results than where are we? Backwards and regressing only months from qualifying. We can’t afford another disaster. If by end of fall there are no tangible results advancement hope USSF has the balls to admit mistakes and do what is needed.

  2. Appreciate your response, but I think we’re in front of our skis about what my question was, which is more basic. In the last 2 days, I feel like I’ve heard commentary unusually specific from the coach, the USSF, and most of the major soccer outlets referencing the scheduling of U-23 friendlies and even a a “U-23 camp”. As it sounds like you appreciate, this is very odd and utterly unrealistic given club release considerations. And yet, the story seems to have legs. Wondering what gives…. did something change?

    • Typically where the US (and other nations) has trouble getting players released for U23 events is when they do not fall in International Windows. Qualifying tournaments are often at least 2 weeks long and only fall partially during windows. Another aspect I have heard reported is that these matches and training would take place in Spain (not sure if that’s accurate as it hasn’t been released). If players are staying in Europe teams are much more likely to release them.

      • You’re talking out of your hat. You don’t just conjure up friendlies involving a senior or high age group team the week before they happen. Travel, stadium rental, securing the players, etc. The women’s U23 are playing games this March. They have been on the USSF schedule a while. The men’s U23 team has no coach and no games on the official schedule. I bluntly do not believe either a camp or games are happening this window, they couldn’t get the players released. Defending a coach saying you’ll see them in U23 camp at some other time when the senior team has games is absurd. Now, last cycle, they played games at this time frame. But in order to do that you have to have your house in order and plan. We took ages to hire a senior NT coach and then the age group coaches waited behind him. Then, the US played in Toulon in late May. The US could still do that, if they haven’t blown it with a rudderless ship. Or they could hold a camp in the few months of the European summer offseason, as well as maybe a shorter domestic camp. But that doesn’t explain March personnel decisions. And of course there will be a fall camp before the qualifying, but that is basically the prep camp and not an evaluation camp. And the reality is some of the more name brand players will not be released for qualifying because as now it will be back within the league season. That will surely cover Sargent and Weah, and likely cover even more frustrating — but still first team club — players like CCV, EPB, etc. There is a reason qualifying usually ends up a mix of domestic college kids, minor league loan players, MLS kids, and European based players who are really playing for age group development squads not their first teams.

      • Not talking out of my hat. Just reporting what Berhalter has said to media this week. Youth camps and matches routinely pop up seemingly out of the blue to the public because they are not big events like full team matches. There will not be tv coverage or really crowd if it is even open to the public so you don’t need to promote them. Maybe Berhalter is lying to everyone, I’m just responding with what he has said.

  3. I could understand this attitude towards a prospect player like EPB, CCV, Novakovich, you know, fair amount of hype, no real spark yet, I’m not going to burn a senior slot on you right now, and what I am going to do is hire a U23 coach, prep you for the U23 team this summer, and maybe revisit this next year if you finally step up. But even that strategy bumps up against the core of the qualifying U23s is always MLS guys and the sort of nascent European who is still on an age group team. Because we can’t make them release people. And then Weah and Sargent, that’s just malarkey, they have been productive senior team players already, and in the case of Sargent, he looks like the next one in the Pulisic/Beasley/Donovan wunderkind line. So they stay abroad on an international date so I can watch Zardes? Huh? And if the camp is this summer really, are they going there instead of to the GC?

  4. It wasent the goal for Michael Bradley, when he was given all those constant minutes a Teen a decade ago to cement himself as golden-boy 90 minutes Captain jogs alot for the next 20 years.

  5. this is pure BS….
    1) “should they be released by their clubs, would figure to be key players for that (U-23) squad.” They aren’t going to be released by their clubs for the Qualifying tournament, so why have them playing minutes in a U-23 friendly designed to prepare the team to qualify for the Olympics. We should be using this U-23 friendly to prepare those who are actually going to be part of the qualification tournament.
    2) “Placing them on the USMNT roster and having them sit on the bench won’t do them any good”….Except that they are better options than players GB is including in the squad. Sargent is a better player than Ramirez & Morris. Weah is better than Baird & Lewis (who is also a U-23 eligible player). Robinson is a better player than Lovitz, and a post is better than Gonzalez.
    I don’t care how old a player is, if they are better than their older counterparts and give us a better chance to win they should be with the Sr. National Team. Continuing to call up worthless “Old A$$” POS players is not the way to build a team.

    • yeah, the premise rings false and hollow. this is not some stud laden veteran squad that is coming off the world cup semis. this is a decimated unit under construction calling a fair amount of filler or old farts. both the two big exclusions can make an argument on NT performance they should start in an A team XI, not just be roster guys. and he’s talking about them like unproven squadies.

    • Agreed, another BS coach. Actually, USSoccer are getting worse and worse on both MNT and WNT. All f. coaches have serious mental illness, both WNT and MNT, coaches keep calling many failed, unproductive, lazy, no passion players. Why those coaches have been hired.

      Hey coaches and USSoccer staff, don’t talk but look at the attendances from last couple years. I am stop attending all US games in LA and live TV, only highlight
      So f..king disappointed on both WNT and MNT; all BS.

  6. Hey SBI writers and all soccer media types in the US. Why don’t you ask him some real questions, or ask him to justify these ridiculous reasons. If it was any other sport in this country, he would be getting roasted all day every day until he owned up. You guys are just as sad and just as complicit as USSF.

  7. So if they had stayed in the U.S. and played for some lousy team, where they would not be pushed to improve, but be guaranteed a start whenever healthy, like say Gyasi, Jozy, MB, etc… Shoot throw Sapong in there. If they had stayed they would be with the team. That is crazy!!! Until now I didn’t believe this, but obviously GB got the job, USSF wanted someone to promote and secure the playing time of MLS players. How sad. How truly sad. For the players who are stuck with this corrupt administration of soccer, and sad for the fans who have so little influence. I for one, am really discouraged about the future of the USMNT. I was already bumming over the 48 team World Cup which just ruins the greatest tournament on earth, not called March Madness. This is truly sad.
    Back to my Red Sox.

    • Well…. I’m definitely with you on the 48 team World Cup. This is truly terrible. Guarantees each team only two games, and places a massive premium on seeding. Frankly, if expansion/money is what FIFA wants, I’d rather they just move to 64 teams, and add an extra knockout round.

  8. Hmmmm…. does someone know something we don’t here? I’ve never heard of clubs releasing players who have cracked the first team releasing players for u-23 camps (u-23’s only exist every few years for Olympics purposes). Would be a great opportunity if true. What am I missing here?

    • as the pool has professionalized, it has gone from college kids you could demand the presence of, or MLS kids, to a U23 pool of people playing for French/Scottish/English/etc. high level teams. those teams are not going to release players for midseason U23 action which we cannot legally demand. this is why U23 now struggles to qualify, and why it is a team of MLS players and guys not on a first team. you won’t change that by camping the stars as U23s. so you might as well focus on players who can accept a U23 selection. instead we seem to relearn this lesson over and over that the type of player you really want to qualify with is usually precisely the sort of player they won’t release. and if we don’t make the Olympics you will never see the good ones in games that count. and i don’t get summer camping kids who should be on the senior team who can’t even play in qualifying.


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