The Concacaf Gold Cup is less than a month away, meaning Gregg Berhalter is already putting the finishing touches on the squad he will choose for the U.S. Men’s National Team, and it will be an almost completely different squad from the one that won the Concacaf Nations League title.
The European-based stars who helped topple Mexico and win the USMNT’s first trophy since the 2017 Gold Cup are well into their summer vacations ahead of the start of European club preseason, leaving the 20201 Gold Cup as a showcase tournament for the MLS-based contingent in the USMNT player pool.
Of course, that doesn’t mean Berhalter won’t try to convince some European teams to allow some players to take part. We aren’t talking about the Christian Pulisics and Weston McKennies of the world, but someone like Julian Green or Chris Richards would be an excellent addition to the pool of available MLS options.
For now, what we do know is that the roster will be made up mostly of MLS players, and as much as there are several exciting young prospects in the pipeline, we shouldn’t expect Berhalter to turn the Gold Cup squad into a gloried U-23 team.
Something else to remember is the Gold Cup allows teams to bring in replacements for the knockout rounds, an option multiple USMNT coaches have used to bring in top veterans later in the competition. Berhalter could choose to do that, which would give him a chance to see some younger faces in the group stage, and save some veterans for the latter stages.
The preliminary USMNT Gold Cup roster was submitted to Concacaf by U.S. Soccer on Monday and should be released by Concacaf this week, but for now here is a look at the 23-player USMNT Gold Cup roster we could see Berhalter call up in July:
Projected USMNT Concacaf Gold Cup roster
Matt Turner, Sean Johnson, David Ochoa
When neither Turner or Johnson were included in the Nations League setup it seemed clear they would both be part of the Gold Cup. Turner has continued to play well in 2021 after his breakout 2020 and looks like the favorite to start.
David Ochoa was the third goalkeeper for the Nations League. Will he fill that role again, or will Berhalter go with a third veteran, like a Hamid? Guzan has not officially announced his international retirement, but at 36, you wonder if Guzan will earn another look.
Missed the Cut: Brad Guzan, Bill Hamid, William Yarbrough
Aaron Herrera, Sam Vines, Julian Araujo, George Bello, Miles Robinson, Walker Zimmerman, Auston Trusty, Justen Glad
Miles Robinson and Walker Zimmerman could be the starting centerback tandem in the Gold Cup unless Berhalter can secure the services of someone like Chris Richards, but some of the bench spots in central defense are particularly intriguing.
Auston Trusty is having a good season with the Colorado Rapids, and is one of the few natural left-footed centerbacks performing well at the moment, so he is someone Berhalter should take a good look at, if only for the group stage. Justen Glad is a player Berhalter has called in before, and someone who he rates as a prospect.
One player who appears to be a long-shot despite being a very talented centerback option is James Sands. The young and technically-sound NYCFC defender could be excellent in Berhalter’s system, and it remains a mystery how he wasn’t part of the Olympic qualifying squad.
The number of options at right back is impressive, but you have to think Berhalter would have an eye on Araujo as someone who could be cap-tied. Of course, he would have to accept the call-up, but even if he didn’t, Berhalter would have any number of options to replace him, including the attacking-minded Brooks Lennon and versatile Kyle Duncan.
Left back has some solid options in Sam Vines and George Bello, who are both on the younger side.
Missed the Cut: Brooks Lennon, Kyle Duncan, Alex Roldan, James Sands, Jaylin Lindsey, Mauricio Pineda
Sebastian Lletget, Kellyn Acosta, Jackson Yueill, Cristian Roldan, Gianluca Busio, Caden Clark
Lletget, Acosta and Yueill should all be on the squad, while Roldan is a safe bet to be included as well. That leaves two spots that should go to some very exciting young prospects.
Busio has really evolved as a well-rounded two-way central midfielder for Sporting Kansas City, and though he is just 18, both Gio Reyna and Yunus Musah have already shown 18 isn’t too young to impress with the USMNT.
Caden Clark is even younger at 17, but there is no denying his dynamic attacking qualities in the final third. He is listed in the midfield group here, but it would not be at all surprising if Berhalter used him in a wing role, much the way he has used Brenden Aaronson.
As far as European-based midfielders go, Julian Green took part in the pre-Nations League camp, but didn’t get to play in the friendly against Switzerland. Could Berhalter talk Gruether Furth into having Green take part in at least the group stage of the Gold Cup? Might he sell Valencia on the benefit of giving Yunus Musah a chance to showcase himself on the international stage?
And what of Michael Bradley? He seems an unlikely inclusion to the full squad, but as a replacement for the knockout rounds, where his experience and poise could help in the closing stages, Bradley could make some sense. It would also allow Berhalter to see just how viable Bradley would be as an option for the early stages of World Cup qualifying, particularly in early road trips to Honduras and likely El Salvador.
Missed the Cut: Djordje Mihailovic, Eryk Williamson, Tanner Tessmann, Russell Canouse, Keaton Parks, Frankie Amaya, Hassani Dotson, Marky Delgado, Andres Perea
Daryl Dike, Gyasi Zardes, Paul Arriola, Cade Cowell, Rubio Rubin, Corey Baird
Yes, Dike could theoretically be heading back to Europe via a summer transfer, which would get in the way of a Gold Cup call-up, but the more realistic scenario is Dike starts in the Gold Cup and boosts his stock even more, giving him another month before the close of the transfer window.
Some of you may have forgotten about Zardes, or think he’s been passed over by the wave of young strikers in the USMNT player pool, but don’t go counting him out just yet. He still knows Berhalter’s system all too well, and the likely absence of Jozy Altidore keeps Zardes in the mix.
Altidore’s unsettled situation with Toronto FC is likely to drop him out of the USMNT picture until he finds a new team and regular playing time. Ayo Akinola is still eligible for both the USA and Canada, so the 21-year-old may not be in a hurry to cap-tie himself just yet.
Speaking of cap-tying, Rubio Rubin has been courted by the Guatemalan national team, but Berhalter has reached out, and given Rubin’s hot form to start the 2021 MLS season, he should be considered an option.
Cade Cowell is another exciting young prospect who has multiple national team options. The San Jose Earthquakes teenager has been on a tear in 2021, and his explosiveness and skill on the ball make him someone Berhalter should bring in for a long look.
One European-based option to consider at striker is Sebastian Soto. The Norwich City striker is unlikely to be part of the newly-promoted English team’s plans, so Soto could be called in and be cap-tied, while potentially earning some official competition appearances to help his chances of securing a U.K. work permit.
Missed the Cut: Jozy Altidore, Ayo Akinola, Chris Mueller, Jeremy Ebobisse
What do you think of this group? Who made the cut that you were happy to see included? Who missed out that you feel should have made the team?
Share your thoughts below.