Top Stories

Busio, Araujo and the MLS players pushing for a Gold Cup roster spot


The U.S. Men’s National Team Gold Cup roster is a week from being revealed, and the long list of names on the preliminary roster has turned into a long list of players pushing hard to secure the final places on Gregg Berhalter’s 23-man squad.

It has been known for some time that the USMNT Gold Cup squad would be predominantly made up of MLS players, but with Berhalter including eight foreign-based players on the preliminary list, there is even more pressure on the fringe MLS-based prospects to step up their performances as the June 30 deadline draws closer.

There are MLS players who are pretty much locks to make the Gold Cup squad, such as USMNT regular Sebastian Lletget, long-time pool options Cristian Roldan and Kellyn Acosta, and expected contributors such as Matt Turner and Miles Robinson, but then there are several fresh faces who made the preliminary roster and are enjoying good runs of form as we head toward decision day.

Here is a look at the players who have done the most in recent weeks and months to strengthen their cases, and those players who have seen their chances of being part of the Gold Cup squad diminish more recently.

Gold Cup stock rising

Gary Rohman-USA TODAY Sports

Gianluca Busio. The Sporting Kansas City midfielder gets better by the week, and as much as transfer rumors swirl, he isn’t leaving MLS before the Gold Cup, and with Berhalter looking for central midfield alternatives, Busio has given him enough reason to give him a call-up.

Caden Clark. You might expect Clark to be on the stock falling list due to his recent appendectomy, and the reality that it could wind up costing him a chance to be on the Gold Cup squad, but the reality is his play had put him squarely on the Gold Cup radar and he still might find his way onto Gregg Berhalter’s team.

Julian Araujo. Competition is fierce at right back in the USMNT player pool overall, and in the Gold Cup player pool, but Araujo has continued to improve in 2021, and his status as a dual national with interest from Mexico should have Berhalter dialing him up soon.

Hassani Dotson. One of the bright spots of the failed U.S. Olympic qualifying tournament squad, Dotson has established himself as a regular starter for Minnesota United and he brings a combination of dynamism and versatility that could make him an ideal person for the end of the roster.

George Bello. Natural left backs have long been difficult to find in the USMNT player pool, but there are some very talented teenagers making their mark in MLS at the position, including Bello, who has settled into a regular starting role for Atlanta United and looks more and more like someone for Berhalter to bring in for a closer look. He has the speed, attacking qualities, and improving defense to eventually challenge for a national team place, and the reality is if not for Atlanta United blocking multiple national team opportunities for its players, Bello might have had more national team looks by now.

Kevin Paredes. If Berhalter is going to be looking at using wingbacks at the Gold Cup, then he might like what he has seen from D.C. United teenager Kevin Paredes as a left wingback for DCU. The 18-year-old is quick and can threaten getting forward, but he’s also still pretty raw in the grand scheme of things, and he’s probably still behind Bello in the left back pecking order, and Bello has also had a strong 2021 season so far.

Gold Cup stock falling

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Cade Cowell. Absolutely red-hot when the MLS season began, Cowell has since cooled off, and with the strong competition at the forward position, Cowell feels less like lock than he might have been a month ago. That being said, the lack of wing options in the pool, coupled with his ability to play out wide should keep the 17-year-old on Berhalter’s radar.

Henry Kessler. One of the top rookies in MLS in 2020, Kessler earned a USMNT call-up and eventually took part in the Olympic qualifying tournament. He had his struggles there, and has since found himself losing a once rock-solid grip on a starting role with New England. His size and passing skills will keep him on the radar, but the Gold Cup now feels like it’s slipping away from him this time around.

Paxton Pomykal. It has been grueling road back from injury for the once high-flying prospect, who seemed destined for great things in 2019, but has spent much of the past two years dealing with setbacks. He has been earning some regular minutes off the bench for FC Dallas, but he has yet to re-establish himself as anything close to a 90-minute player, and may have to look ahead to 2022 before he can fight his way back into the national team picture.

Jonathan Lewis. Berhalter loves a fast winger, and his interest in Lewis is well documented, having given the Rapids winger multiple call-ups during his tenure. This year started out with Lewis showing well with the USMNT, scoring two goals in a romp over Trinidad & Tobago, but he didn’t parlay that into a strong season with the Rapids, or a good showing with the Olympic qualifying team. He still shows flashes at times, and even scored a goal last week coming off the bench, but it’s tough to see Berhalter bringing him in again given his relative lack of minutes in 2021.

Chase Gasper. The Minnesota United left back isn’t on this list because he’s had a bad season — the truth is he’s been pretty steady — but what he hasn’t been is very dynamic and in a competition at left back where the likes of George Bello and Sam Vines (and more recently Kevin Paredes) have shown dynamic qualities, Gasper has looked more like a player with significantly less upside than the other left backs in the pool

What do you think of these lists? Who has impressed you this season that you can see being a surprise inclusion? Who do you think has played their way out of the picture?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. With the organizations strength in development and young options and fact that the manger was so pivotal in their youth system- I have to say I am surprised and at a loss for any logic/reasons why Luchi has spent the good part of the year being very sparing with minutes given his young players. ( If they were doing well playing the veterans an argument could be made but…. Dallas has been dreadful. At this point, I’d be all in w/ Pomykal. Pepi, Ferreira, Che, Tessman, The only explanation I can come up with is pressure from the top but…. whatever it is- they need to reconsider and go all in with youth. Nothing to lose sitting bottom of the table and plenty to gain for the future. ***There does seem to be signs of change in that regard, but not nearly enough in my mind.

  2. As we get closer to WCQ I feel more & more confident with our attacking player options…but grow more and more concerned with our defensive depth. The Gold Cup needs to identify viable depth at both CDM and CB. For that reason I’m most interested in how the following players are used:
    Busio – Will he be used as a 6 or an 8? Can he continue to improve his defensive skills to the point he’ll be an option?
    CCV/Robinson/EPB – Can they finally muscle their way into consideration for the USMNT A-Team, or will they remain “B” teamers.
    Green – Can he/Will he be able to make a claim for the A-Team as an 8? Can he overtake Lletget as a super-sub?
    Flach – Will he make the cut? Can he make the transition to the Sr. Level now or does he need more time?
    Sands – Will he make the cut? If so as a CB or a CDM? A versatile player is always good to have on a tournament roster.
    Dike, Cowell & Clark all have futures with the USMNT, but is that future now or sometime in the future?
    These are the questions I’m looking for the GC to answer.

    • Busio: I think he’ll end up as an 8/10/ or Inverted winger. I think at this point he’s just a slightly better Yueill or Acosta. I feel like Flach plays more in Adams style which means everyone else doesn’t have to change how they play if Tyler is out.
      CCV: I just think he’d be an epically bad partner for Brooks. If Brooks is out and we had a mobile LCB like Richards he’d be great.
      EPB: his passing is pretty bad with Austria Wien. If you watch his all touch videos there’s several bad giveaways a game. No maybe that’s focus for a bad team in a MLS like league but that’s still a bad habit to break.
      MRob: I think would make a good partner for Brooks, mobile hard worker like Long.
      Green: he’s always been most popular when not playing for NT, can he finally stick this time????
      Sands: seems like vanilla ice cream it’s not going to make you say wow but your usually still going to be happy with it.
      I hope Clark is back in time, if we want a speedy winger it better be Cowell not Lewis, and Dike needs to shine for us to contend in this tournament.

      • I tend to agree with you re Busio being a small upgrade to Yueill and Accosta… at this point. The last being the key. While Yueill and Accosta are pretty close to finished products w/ static development- Busio is quite young and still making huge strides. He also offers an element of creativity and moments of brilliance whereas the former 2…. not so much. That is a huge case made to play the kid- as his upside appears to be much higher and helping him get there as another option at the 8 and especially 6 would help the national team greatly.

        !00% agree re CCV as well. Nice takes.

  3. Haven’t seen him play lately, but I noticed he had an assist in his last game, so I think mention should be made of Chris Mueller who had a wonderful season last year. Also, Jeremy Ebobissee, who scored last weekend on a header, is one of our best forwards in the air and I’d like to see how Ives rates him.

  4. I saw Kevin Paredes play one time during of the DC United games. I was impressed how fast he is, how well he can control the ball and how dangerous he is in the attack. He seems to have a bright future.

    • Berhalter mentioned Paredes on the US Soccer pod this week. Not necessarily that he was going to make the roster, but I think he was the only guy on the provisional list that was mentioned by name.

    • This seems like a good place for a shoutout to the DCU pipeline. 2 homegrown players with national team caps in bill hamid and najar, two more homegrown starters In pines, and paredes, and two quality youngsters in Yow and neyman, and all of the above have national team prospects. Neyman could be the best of the bunch, the closest thing USA have to mnogo kante.


Leave a Comment