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Projecting the USMNT roster for Nations League and June friendlies

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Nearly seven weeks have flown by since the U.S. men’s national team secured its place at the 2022 World Cup, and while it was natural for their to be a chance to rest after the emotionally exhausting road to qualify for the World Cup, it is now time to begin the work of shaping the team that will represent the United States in Qatar.

A busy June, with four matches on the schedule, will give Gregg Berhalter plenty of opportunity to look at new faces, and try out different systems. There are sure to be several regulars absent as they recover from long seasons, or in some cases injuries.

The USMNT squad for June should feature several key stars, but also a healthy number of new faces, with a number of players having put together strong club seasons to propel themselves onto the radar.

What could the squad look like that faces Uruguay, Morocco, Grenada and El Salvador in June? The USMNT will unveil the squad on Friday, but here is a look at potential group we could see, along with the players who could wind up missing the cut:


Goalkeepers


Zack Steffen, Matt Turner, Ethan Horvath

Steffen and Turner are the top two options in the pool, but concerns continue to grow about the possibility they could both be stuck on the bench for their clubs heading into the World Cup.

Slonina is a player fans will want to see be part of the June squad, but June could be when Slonina joins Poland’s setup to get a feel for what it has to offer. The reality is he wouldn’t be playing in any of the June matches for the USMNT, so having him test the waters with Poland now makes sense timing wise.

Missed the Cut: Sean Johnson, Gabriel Slonina


Defenders


Walker Zimmerman, Aaron Long, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Chris Richards, Erik Palmer-Brown, Sam Vines, George Bello, James Sands, Joe Scally

Does Berhalter bring in Zimmerman or give him a rest after the heavy lifting he did in World Cup qualifying? The injury to Miles Robinson could put the emphasis on helping Zimmerman get reps with Long and Richards, the two leading candidates to replace Robinson in the lineup.

Antonee Robinson definitely deserves a rest after his workload for club and country, which should give Berhalter a chance to look at some other options at left back. Bello didn’t get as many matches in Germany as he probably would have hoped, but he remains a top prospect at the position.

Sergino Dest is coming off an injury-hit second half of the season at Barcelona and a full rest makes the most sense for him, especially when there are so many fullback options to look at.

Joe Scally enjoyed a solid year with Borussia Moenchengladbach and has earned a long look, though Berhalter could be tempted to bring in veterans like Reggie Cannon and DeAndre Yedlin.

James Sands is an interesting one because if Berhalter is serious about getting a good look at the three-centerback setup then he could want Sands around given how well he fits into that system.

Along the lines of potential options for the three-centerback setup, Berhalter could be tempted to look at some good wingback options, such as Kevin Paredes and Brian Reynolds.

John Brooks remains the odd man out, and with more young options emerging it feels more and more likely we have seen the last of him in a USMNT uniform.

Missed the Cut: Antonee Robinson, John Brooks, Reggie, Cannon, Mark McKenzie, Matt Miazga, Shaq Moore, DeAndre Yedlin, Kevin Paredes, Bryan Reynolds.


Midfielders


Weston McKennie, Yunus Musah, Tyler Adams, Kellyn Acosta, Luca De La Torre, Alan Sonora, Djordje Mihailovic

Weston McKennie has worked his way back from the foot injury that cost him a large part of the second half of the European season, while Berhalter will need to weigh how much he wants to use Tyler Adams, or whether it’s a good time to give him a rest.

There are some very intriguing attacking midfield options for Berhalter to consider, and Mihailovic’s play for CF Montreal should earn him a look, and if Sonora is available and open to a call he should also be brought in given how good a season he has enjoyed in Argentina.

That leaves Richie Ledezma as someone who might miss out, though he is a very talented and unique midfield option who just might have the best attacking skill set of the new faces.

Gianluca Busio went straight from the MLS season last summer into the Serie A campaign with Venezia, and proceeded to set a career-high for minutes played, which could make it a good time to give him a rest, though if veterans like Adams and Acosta are left out, then Berhalter could decide its the right time to give Busio some starts.

Missed the Cut: Richie Ledezma, Gianluca Busio, Tanner Tessmann, Cristian, Roldan, Sebastian Lletget, Alex Mendez.


Forwards


Christian Pulisic, Jesus Ferreira, Haji Wright, Malik Tillman, Brenden Aaronson, Tim Weah

Pulisic’s light workload with Chelsea should make the run of June matches a reasonable way to conclude his run, but Berhalter will want to look at Aaronson’s workload and consider whether a break might not be a good idea, especially with a potential big move looming for him this summer.

Gio Reyna won’t be included, and that isn’t really a surprise given the nightmare run of injuries he has endured. A full summer off and chance to start fresh heading into the Bundesliga season with Borussia Dortmund is the best thing for the young talent.

Haji Wright has earned a call, and the way he finished up the Turkish season should have USMNT fans excited about the possibility that he takes hold of the wide-open starting striker role. Jesus Ferreira is in good form for FC Dallas, and will head into the camp as the projected starter.

Malik Tillman should be part of the squad, and the word that he has chosen to represent the United States is a big coup for Berhalter and the program, but expecting a lot from him in his first camp probably isn’t that reasonable.

Jordan Pefok’s name is missing, which will surprise some given the career year he just had with Young Boys, but he is coming off a busy club season and right now Ferreira, Wright and Tillman appears more likely to be the trio at striker for these matches.

If Berhalter chooses to give Aaronson and Weah rests, then Jordan Morris and Paul Arriola would be the logical options to replace them.

Missed the Cut: Gio Reyna, Ricardo Pepi, Jordan Morris, Paul Arriola, Josh Sargent, Jordan Pefok, Konrad De La Fuente.


What do you think of our projected roster? Who made the cut that you are hoping is included? Who did we leave out that you think deserves to be part of the June squad?

Share your thoughts below.

Comments

  1. Time of this post, the roster isn’t out yet but I’m excited. I can’t hold my enthusiasm at the moment. The prospect of a 4-3-3 with-
    CP, Haji, Weah
    LDT, Adams, McKenzie,
    Vines, EPB, Richards, Cannon
    The core would be the 97-98 babies. Guy’s who’ve been together since they were 13/14 years old. The best youth group since ‘99 U20s, and the 1st 2 win a CONCACAF U20 championship, will be able to play against Uruguay & Morocco together. CCV is born in ‘97. Sonora & Djordje are born in ‘98 are your subs! Vines is born in ‘99, with Jedi, who’s not in this camp, is born in ‘98. Sprinkle in some vets, with the ‘00-‘02s and we could be in for some enjoyable June friendlys!

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  2. Aaron Long is not and should not be an option. I rate CCV or EPB over him and both should be on this roster. Hate me, but John Brooks should be as well.

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  3. I have little faith in most of the MLSers. I just feel like at the higher level of the World Cup they are going to be exposed and it will be embrassing to the entire country. I wish they could play a pot 1 team with acosta, long, zimmerman, yedlin, arriola, morris etc and just prove it one or the other if I am on to something or not.

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    • Yedlin played at Newcastle for years. He’s a vet and he’d be fine. Because of the fact that MLS tends to buy elite forwards with their DP slots because of bang-for-the-buck, Zimmerman constantly faces guys like Gonzalo Higuain, Carlos Vela, Chicharito, Darwin Quintero, Josef Martinez, and soon, Lorenzo Insigne. He’s been up against Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thierry Henry in the past. MLS CB’s see world-class strikers. Zimmerman will be fine. (Miles Robinson would have been fine.)

      Am I less sold on a lot of the others? Sure. But MLS is basically English Championship level, and those others are basically solid Championship-level guys who because of limited athleticism or lack of skill would struggle at the level of the Prem or the Bundesliga. They’re not holes on the field, but you’re also not going to beat France or Belgium or Brazil with them either.

      They are also, alas, what we have right now at the bottom of the 23 and certainly in the 26 we’ll likely take to Qatar. We can’t yet make a roster full of Top-5 league guys, much less Champions League-level guys, but I certainly think we’ll have that by 2026.

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    • Tash 2.0 – In 2002, everyone was saying the same thing about the US. Arena has too many guys from the MLS. MLS sux, they won’t go far. Fast forward to ‘14, USA has too many MLS players to compete. Klinsmann is an idiot. They’ll bomb out. Both squads had the exact amount of MLS players. Check it out, if you don’t believe me. USA historically has gotten its CBs & GKs from the MLS. …and they have played well! You don’t have to like the MLS to be a USMNT fan but you do have to acknowledge that the MLS doesn’t suck. Having players ONLY playing in Europe called up for the WC, will leave out American born players from playing in WCs. I wholeheartedly disagree with Quozzel’s last paragraph.

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      • To beachbum, It’s Ok 2 Think…I’m certainly not dumping on MLS and it is, like I said, a solidly English Championship-level league now and while most publications now have MLS as the 10th-15th best league on the planet I think that’s low. $200K buys you one heckuva Central American or Caribbean Islander soccer player even if the Europeans have never heard of the guy…put that guy in MLS for a year or three to take the rough edges off his game and you’ve got a guy who’s genuine quality…and underpaid for what he is. Because of the salary cap MLS scouts intensively and looks in rough corners of the world. It’s on the top end of that Top-10-to-Top-15-in-the-world, IMHO…and getting better every year.

        So MLS is not a bad league…and it’s certainly a quality league for elite guys who are starting or ending their careers. The way MLS’s salary cap works, I strongly suspect we’re basically generating 30+ Ajaxes at the moment. So I do think we’re going to see a huge pool of talented young prospects increasingly getting hoovered up by Europe. One hand feeds the other.

        By 2026, though, there’s going to be SO MANY of these guys abroad and playing in the Prem, Serie A, the Bundesliga, La Liga, or Ligue 1, plus Champions League-level squads from the next tier of European leagues (Porto, Ajax, Red Bull Salzburg, etc.), that it’s going to be durn hard to justify putting in MLS guys over them unless that MLS guy is just killing it. I do think we’ll probably still pluck some CB’s (who do, like I said, routinely face elite strikers) and the odd young phenom but by 2026 I suspect 90%+ of the roster will be Euro-based guys.

    • well, when you have our euro players consistently injured, not playing every weekend, or when playing not playing well, you have to supplement that with other players, an this idea that MLSers don’t belong in the NT is just silly at this point! What could embarrass us is relying on nothing but our euro players who could be coming into the WC not in form or off of injuries, and alienating our domestic league players

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      • “when you have our euro players consistently injured, not playing every weekend, or when playing not playing well, you have to supplement that with other players,”

        Are saying MLS players are not injured, play every weekend and are always playing well?

        History shows that our World Cup team has always been a mix of overseas and domestic players. For example, people forget that Zusi, Besler, and Beckerman were alleged MLS hater JK regulars and important parts of the 2014 WC team.

        If it’s close, especially for the less critical games, the benefit of the doubt often goes to the MLS guy because easier availability for call ups tends to make them more familiar with the team.

        I don’t expect it will be much different in 2026.
        MLS will be better by then forcing the Euro stars to play their way onto the team.

        And if we have a lot of Euros as regulars on Champions League winning teams them they will be more prone to injury because of the demands on them.

        Berhalter will then be like a lot of other international managers, saving the big names for the important games.

        The mix should wind up to be about the same as usual.

  4. Man, I was watching some Malik Tillman clips…and the more I watched, the more excited I got. I see exactly why Germany was so unhappy to lose him. I think he’s the single most-talented individual to ever wear the USA shirt, period.

    Mind, talent’s cheap, and he’s still just 19, and lots of players never come close to reaching their ceilings for a variety of reasons. But Tillman’s upside is just so incredibly high. He’s a fantastic athlete who is smoother than smooth and can bound effortlessly past defenders in about two steps. (Those Paul Pogba comparisons are not wrong. Physically he’s similar.) And he’s got such incredible, effortless skill on the ball, with a velvety, close touch…the ball seems just glued to his foot. And the dude is just so CALM. He finishes with this casual precision, just picks his spot and slots it right in like a golf pro finishing the back nine, just all in a day’s work for him.

    I think Tillman shows more than a “little”. Granted, new guy, new group…but this is a different animal here and in terms of talent it’s not close between he and even, say, Pulisic…or he and anybody on the roster. He’s got the CEILING to be our Ronaldo and like Germany I am truly shocked they let him get away.

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    • Reading about him, he’s at different times seen as an 8, a 10, or a striker. Obviously, we could use a consistent, productive striker, but maybe he’s the true 10 that we really don’t have. His highlights show him passing as much as shooting.

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      • He’s one of those that’s so good he literally could dominate anywhere, it looks like. I mean…yes. Wherever. The guy is just a SOCCER player, in every sense of the word. If he does anything badly I didn’t see it.

        I mean, you start thinking about what it might could look like with this cat, Pulisic, Reyna, Musah, and McKennie all buzzing around out there…I think you just sort of pick your top five and sort ’em out on the field, because that is a group of guys I think once they grow together could literally play with anybody.

  5. Most of those choices are no-brainers. The need for a backup to Robinson at LB is still something that must be addressed. Johnny Nelson has been starting for Cincinnati during their recent run. An issue with him is he does not get forward as much as GB seems to like. but his defensive instincts are top notch, something that might be needed against stronger opponents.
    Everyone is hoping that one of the forwards steps up and think it is a mistake not to include Pefok who simply scores goals.

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    • I think Pefok got a rough run … he had one chance and scuffed it. That should not take away from what he’s done on the club level. Anything you send his way goes into the back of the net. I think he gets another shot. He needs a confidence boost with the USMNT.

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    • “The need for a backup to Robinson at LB is still something that must be addressed.”

      They don’t need a backup for him.
      They need a replacement.
      He won’t make Qatar and after that it doesn’t really matter for a while. Somebody better will most likely come along.

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    • “The need for a backup to Robinson at LB is still something that must be addressed.”

      The need is for a backup?
      The need is for a replacement.

      Robinson is done for Qatar.

      As for 2026, hopefully someone better comes along before then.

      Reply

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