A 59-player preliminary roster might seem overboard and unnecessary by Concacaf to require, but as excessive as it may be, the large lists have provided some useful insight into the state of the U.S. Men’s National Team player pool.
The MLS-heavy list was expected, but it was still encouraging to see many of the most promising young talents in the league identified as being on Gregg Berhalter’s radar, even if the pipe dream some people have of a final roster consisting only of youngsters isn’t ever going to happen.
Berhalter is sure to select a few top youngsters for his final 23, with Caden Clark, Cade Cowell and Gianluca Busio near the top of the list, but the inclusion of seven European-based players has revealed that Berhalter isn’t going to treat the Gold Cup strictly as a chance to mine the MLS talent pool.
That being said, it will be interesting to see which youngsters make the squad, and which win prominent roles. As much as the Gold Cup team is likely to feature plenty of players with national team experience, you have to think at least one or two of the most promising youngsters will fight their way onto the field.
The trophy on the line in July does carry significance, but the main priority for Berhalter remains World Cup qualifying, so those who thought the Gold Cup might be a chance to just throw together a squad of inexperienced players to see who will sink or swim should also prepare for a potential half-dozen slightly older foreign-based candidates trying to force their way into the picture for qualifying.
With all that in mind, here is a closer look at some of the key takeaways from the USMNT Gold Cup roster;
Julian Green’s chance to shine
Julian Green happens to be the only player on the entire preliminary roster currently projected to be on a team in a top-five European league. It still isn’t a guarantee that Berhalter includes him — newly-promoted side Bundesliga Greuther Furth is sure to object — but the Gold Cup could be the perfect showcase for Green to show he can help the USMNT in central midfield when qualifying begins in World Cup qualifying begins in September.
Green earned his first call-up under Berhalter ahead of the May friendly against Switzerland, and while he didn’t get on the field for that match, he did have a week of camp to make an impression on Berhalter, and his inclusion in the Gold Cup squad suggests Berhalter liked what he saw.
Green is fighting for a place among Berhalter’s first-choice central midfielders, where Weston McKennie, Sebastian Lletget and Yunus Musah are among the competition. Green’s ability as a two-way midfielder make him well-suited for Berhalter’s system, and the Gold Cup would allow him to demonstrate just how much he has grown as a player after his recent years starting for Furth.
Cannon’s inclusion keeps right back crowded
The summer transfer window is likely to also play a part in shaping the USMNT Gold Cup squad. Reggie Cannon’s inclusion surely came as a surprise, but the former FC Dallas defender is positioning himself for a transfer away from Portuguese side Boavista, and a Gold Cup call-up would allow him to put off rejoining the Portuguese side for potentially a full month, giving him more time to secure a transfer.
In terms of the actual right back position, Cannon had been projected to be the USMNT starter at Nations League, but he started neither match. He showed well in the friendly win against Costa Rica after the Nations League, and a strong showing at the Gold Cup could help him re-establish himself as a preferred option at the position.
It could also help him fend off potential challenges from the rest of the USMNT talent pool at right back. Julian Araujo is a top candidate, and his potential inclusion in the Gold Cup squad would cap-tie him, but if Cannon makes the team it will be tough for the LA Galaxy fullback to beat him out, though it would make for a good battle.
The right back player pool also boasts another European-based option in Shaq Moore, who has yet to be called into a camp by Berhalter, but did earn looks in 2018, in the year before Berhalter took over.
Two other good MLS options at right back are Kyle Duncan and Aaron Herrera, with Herrera having won the starting job in Olympic qualifying. Duncan and Herrera could wind up missing out on this Gold Cup though if Cannon and/or Moore are included.
Have we seen the last of Michael Bradley?
One of the most glaring omissions on the preliminary roster was Michael Bradley, whose absence from the list was immediately taken by some as a sign that his days with the USMNT are over.
Don’t be so sure. Clearly, Berhalter stands a good chance of taking longer looks at both Kellyn Acosta and Jackson Yueill, and there’s no reason to call in the 33-year-old Bradley for the Gold Cup when it would make much more sense to call him for World Cup qualifying in the event other defensive midfield options are unavailable.