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Who will, and who should the USMNT start vs. Mexico?

The 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup has been an undeniable success for the U.S. men’s national team no matter what happens in Sunday’s final. The key goals of identifying players who could help provide depth in World Cup qualifying and providing valuable experience to young players have both been realized on the USMNT’s five-win streak heading into the final.

The big question now is whether Gregg Berhalter will continue prioritizing his young players, or will he turn to veterans to close the show and help the Americans lift the Gold Cup for the first time since 2017?

The answer to that question will ultimately have a major impact on the lineup Berhalter deploys at a sold-out Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. There are as many as four different players who Berhalter could call on in place of more experienced options, which is something he has continued to do, even at the potential expense of those inexperienced players falling flat.

So far, Berhalter’s novices have risen to the challenge, and while there has been a good amount of help provided by the likes of Gyasi Zardes and Cristian Roldan off the bench, Sunday’s opponent — Mexico — is the kind of team that can put the match out of reach before any substitutes can come in and make a difference.

Some decisions should be easier than others, such as starting Gyasi Zardes over Daryl Dike at striker, but some others, particularly in the midfield and on the right wing, will be more difficult.

With all that in mind, here is the starting lineup we could see the USMNT deploying against Mexico in Sunday’s Gold Cup final, as well as the lineup we would deploy if we were making the final lineup decisions:

Projected USMNT Starting Lineup vs. Mexico

SBI’s Preferred USMNT Starting Lineup vs. Mexico


Who will start: Matt Turner

Who should start: Matt Turner

Nothing has changed here, especially after his monster performance against Qatar.


Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

Who will start: Shaq Moore, James Sands, Miles Robinson, Sam Vines

Who should start: Reggie Cannon, James Sands, Miles Robinson, Sam Vines

You get the sense Gregg Berhalter might want to reward Shaq Moore for his surprisingly steady run through the tournament, but the big question after his lackluster showing against Qatar is whether he is running out of gas.

That brings us to Reggie Cannon, who has played in a Gold Cup final, has come off the bench in multiple matches and looked steady, and has the defensive qualities to help deal with Mexico’s wide threats.

The rest of the defense is set in stone, with Miles Robinson, James Sands and Sam Vines having all solidified their places. Yes, Sands is coming off his first shaky performance for the USMNT, but there’s no chance he isn’t in the lineup if he’s healthy.


Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

Who will start: Sebastian Lletget, Kellyn Acosta, Cristian Roldan

Who should start: Sebastian Lletget, Kellyn Acosta, Eryk Williamson

Sebastian Lletget and Kellyn Acosta are among the safest bets on the squad to start against Mexico, leaving the one midfield decision at the box-to-box midfield slot next to Lletget.

Berhalter has three directions he can go. He can stick with Gianluca Busio, who has made four straight starts, with varying degrees of success, though also with his share of struggles. He can turn to the veteran Cristian Roldan, who is no stranger to playing in finals in packed stadiums, and who has also played in a Gold Cup final before.

Then Berhalter has the wild card, Eryk Williamson, who has looked sharp in every appearance he has made. He feels like the longest of the long shots among the players we would start, with Roldan feeling like the safer bet to get the call from Berhalter.


Photo by John Dorton ISI Photos

Who will start: Matthew Hoppe, Gyasi Zardes, Paul Arriola

Who should start: Matthew Hoppe, Gyasi Zardes, Paul Arriola

Will Berhalter go with Gyasi Zardes or Daryl Dike? It should be an easy call given Dike’s form in his past two matches, and Zardes’ impact as a substitute in those same matches. There is also the possibility that Dike is carrying a knock. Either way, Zardes is the clear choice.

Matthew Hoppe is a lock to start on the left wing, leaving the right wing for Paul Arriola. The D.C. United winger did show improvement against Qatar after a rough outing against Canada, and he has experience playing against Mexico, having started in a World Cup qualifier at Azteca, so he won’t be awed by the scene on Sunday.

Now, if Berhalter looks for a bit more possession in his lineup, then starting Cristian Roldan wide and a Gianluca Busio or Eryk Williamson centrally would make sense. That being said, we see Berhalter going with the more experienced setup of Arriola on the right wing and Roldan in the middle.

What do you think of our projected lineups? Which would you start? Who are you most excited to see play?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. 3 hours before match time and I’m thinking 4-3-3
    Hoppe, Dike, Nico
    Lleget, Acosta, Williamson
    Vines, Robinson, Sands, Cannon
    Subs- ‘60 Zardes (Dike), Arriola (Williamson), ‘75 Busio (Hoppe), Roldan & Moore come in only if US goes in extra time. Definitely not nervous as I was at the beginning of the GC. The team made it to the finals! Let’s Go!! USA

  2. It almost doesn’t matter who will start. The key is for Berhalter to let the team attack and explain that forward passes are allowed.

  3. USMNT has done well against Mexico with a three man back line, and if we can avoid giving up an early goal, this group could settle in nicely in this formation.
    Hoppe and zardes up top, with cannon and arriola on the wings. A midfield triangle of letget, Acosta, and Williamson.

    • Agree with this concept, but not sure the current roster allows for it. Who is the third centerback? And not sure Vines has the offense to play a wingback role, so there’s two holes to fill on the backline. I think injuries and roster selection force the 4-3-3. I like Arriola’s game but he has not looked himself this tourney and if not 100%, we need someone else from the start. Zardes must start, while not a great holdup player he is really the only striker on this roster capable of it, and that will be critical to us trying to advance the ball against Mexico.

      • Jb, I don’t have vines starting, if we play a three man back line. It’s arriola and cannon wide, and hoppe and zardes up top. Three center backs on the back line

  4. One thing that gives me hope is that Mexico has a good team that plays together well, but the results haven’t been there. Sure they haven’t lost, but they were tied by T&T and struggled with Canada. I’m not sure what it is, but they seem to lack something. Without Lozano they seem to be less of an attacking threat and I don’t understand why they don’t play Pulido more. With Turner in goal I think we have a decent chance. I prefer ives’ lineup but would like to see Gioacchini on the right wing instead of Arriola.

  5. I don’t understand what Arriola has shown in any game he’s played this Gold Cup that deserves getting a start. Can someone remind me of what impactful performance I missed?

    If experience in past Gold Cup Finals are all that matter, let’s brink back Freddy Adu, Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan for this one…

  6. Agree with your choices. Zardes for sure, Cannon as he should be fresher, and Prefer to see Williamson in there. Roldan doesn’t give us much.

  7. I mean, I get it…but wow, that’s a lackluster lineup and it’s not at all what I would do. Zardes, Roldan, and Arriola are not going to beat Mexico, not as starters they don’t have the quality. Our three genuine threats with the ball at their feet are Hoppe, Gioacchini, and Williamson…and of course we’re likely only going to start one of them…which is why we have next to no creative threats on the field and no real combination play going forward and you see Hoppe gamefully getting on the ball trying to do everything himself until he wears himself out, because he really has no one who can play with him right now. What Zardes CAN do is come off the bench like he has done and put some pain and suffering on tired Mexican legs and use his size and athleticism and willingness to work to inflict himself on them after 60, and that he does very well. As a starter? Meh. Arriola and Roldan can plug and fill when and if needed, they don’t add much against Mexico. I’d save the workhorse guys for Mexico when they wear down, and go after them with our more skilled guys early, because I dunno if playing for 1-0 works against El Tri. But then, what do I know? I didn’t think it’d remotely work against Qatar either.


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