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23 for 2026: Projecting the next USMNT World Cup roster

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    • if the MNT is hard to predict without knowing the coach (and not guaranteed even if you do), U23 makes everyone look silly. historically US U23 teams have been crippled by the combination of “graduation” and release issues. graduation in the sense we usually quit calling USMNT regulars who should otherwise be age eligible. the paris games will be played in july-august so you may have release issues. so the “game” is always there is the best 23 under 23 and then there are the different set of players we can get released among the ones we are still treating as age group types. most people can come up with an interesting list of the best U23s. about no one can predict who in their early 20s will fall short of MNT status and also be available, which usually ends up being non-first team europe plus 80-90% of MLS types. we usually don’t ask for USMNT types and can’t get the YNT ones who start in europe which means the obvious ones everyone adores and puts on their list aren’t even available. it tends to be an exercise in anticipating who is the next tanner tessmann.

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  1. you have to see who the coach is going forward before you can meaningfully do this exercise. there is who this coach might pick, which would probably have a high degree of continuity, limited experimentation, and maintenance of current reputations. there is what someone else would pick, at which point i would expect formational, tactical, and personnel changes. just to point out a few, i don’t think slonina has done a thing to deserve a call yet, but vazquez would be high on new lists.

    i also think if there is regime change you may see more aggression in playing YNT and recruiting dual nationals, including acting preemptively. GB is part of arena’s coaching tree and all too often that set likes to wait for mid-career established players to call. if the coach changes you might see a more klinsi-attitude to youth and dual nationals, where we call them early, kick tires, and try to win the race as opposed to just let people shop. only so many might actually be ready but you might see a somewhat different set of faces trialed and earlier timing. some of the dual national brits and mexicans come to mind.

    re people saying we suddenly don’t have a set schedule,, meh, that is only somewhat true. next year with NL + gold cup will be as busy as 2021. we will have one more window of full blown NL fixtures. we will have some friendlies interspersed but so would any USMNT. rumor is copa america 2024. gold cup again 2025. we will lose qualifying on the back half but that would likely have been 2024-6 anyway. that’s when the lack of structure would show up.

    i think the mistake they made is not pushing NL in the direction of bigger groups and more scheduled games, which would fill the time more. as it stands since we played a june pair we only have 2 more games left. if the groups got bigger you’d also likely more tough games. a 6 team group would probably have 2-3 decent opponents.

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  2. really hoping for someone who can take corners well to break into the starting 11. when Kellyn Acosta coming on causes a tiny surge of hope in that regard (a role he regrettably didn’t perform even after coming on despite Pulisic’s struggles by the flag and greater value on the other end of the ball) …then we have an issue to address.

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    • are we picking players to defend and hustle or are we picking them to be technical and able to take set pieces. i would look at our lineups and ask who else could even take the kicks, considering reyna was benched, aaronson played little, and the AMs are more two way types. but then i thought for a 433 team the midfield was sloppy which even 1 less sloppy mid could get you your deadball guy.

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  3. “Ledezma is way too small to play international. He is 5’6 135 lbs. soaking wet,”

    ?? FIFA lists him at 174 cm and 64 kilos . I know FIFA are corrupt and untrustworthy but why they would lie about Richie ?

    https://www.fifaindex.com/player/256098/richard-ledezma/fifa23/

    Meaning he’s about 5’9″ and about 141 pounds. That makes him a little taller and a little lighter than Messi and Luka Modric. Last I checked those two were doing okay in international football. Not that Richie is anywhere near them but there are many international players who are dimensionally similar to Richie.

    Richie may not make it with the USMNT but it probably won’t be because he’s too short or too light.

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      • This is what I wrote:

        “Not that Richie is anywhere near them but there are many international players who are dimensionally similar to Richie.”

        Make of that what you will.

      • Well I guess the corrupt USSF is more credible than the corrupt FIFA.

        I’m lazy. I could probably spend a few minutes finding a bunch of references to Richie’s height and I’m betting more of them will tend towards 5’9″ but that’s work for you to do not me.

        More to the point I’ve seen Richie play.. I can tell you that whether he’s 5’6″ or 5’9″, given how Richie likes to play, it’s more or less irrelevant. His height is not going to be the factor that makes or breaks him.

        There’s lots of 5’6′ players in international soccer and higher who are doing just fine thank you.

      • he’s not a target 9 — i mean how tall is messi or was maradona — so the same basic questions apply regardless of size. can he ball and is he bothered defending. in his 1 senior cap so far — just 22′ — he had 2 assists. on that basis alone this discussion gives me a headache. some slighter or smaller players either don’t bother defending — freddy adu — or can be shoved over too easy on 50/50 — LDLT. i haven’t seen richie play enough to know if he can defend his position. but if you produce enough who cares.

      • He has turned into a key starter for Internacional. Can play as a 6 or 8 or at RM. Good passing range, good size at 6’0 and good athleticism. Think he can definitely get into the USMNT midfield rotation and could be a key starter for the Olympic team.

  4. There are talks surrounding the following that’s really interesting:
    a) Haji Wright and Crystal Palace
    b) Christian Pulisic and Liverpool
    c) Weston McKennie and Liverpool
    d) Folarin Balogun and USMNT (which I believe this next world cup might play a hand in our favor).
    …….it’s going to be interesting in 2023 to say the least!!

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      • He had two today for Stade Reims. The second involved an element of luck but the first one was clinical. He trails only Mbappe and Neyman for goals in Ligue 1, and not by much at that.

    • All of that is really, really interesting. Where did you hear that about Balogun? He’s a potential difference-maker I’ve coveted ever since watching video of him from Reims and he’d be as big a get as Musah was, IMHO, and as big as I think Tillman’s going to turn out to be. Maybe bigger because he’s a genuine striker who can score goals, which is obviously the biggest need we have aside from maybe established CB’s not named Walker Zimmerman.

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  5. Depth creating competition is an absolute need at every competition!
    Doesn’t matter where it comes from but ready to increase their individual play and overall team competitiveness.
    So there is a scenario if a player under performs , they lose their spot or subbed out of a match. Don’t track back or continue to lose possession take a seat
    Depth also gives tactical dexterity in formations or an individual match up. Such as a particular midfielder who can man mark the opposite playmaker like a Griezmann or such. Have a dynamic that the other team cannot cope with.

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  6. Poor Erik Palmer Brown. Not even a mention here even though he has been a constant starter for almost 2 seasons now in the French league. At least twice a year he plays against PSG which has Mbappe, Neymar, and Messi. He has consistently moved up through several leagues, yet he gets very little chance with the US. He deserves to be given a chance in upcoming friendlies.

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    • Every Monday I would run through leagues checking starting lineups to see which Americans either started forgotten minutes and if it was available took a look at it to see if I could see anything they did. EPB definitely was one of the constants. Plays in a strong league and consistently held his own. Guys should definitely be getting a look

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    • Palmer-Brown was left off by mistake (as was Mark McKenzie). Both were meant to be included in the Missed the Cut category. Do I see Palmer-Brown making the team? No, but he has an outside shot for sure.

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  7. Ledezma is way too small to play international. He is 5’6 135 lbs. soaking wet, and not strong. He will break down again.
    I’m surprised you missed Tanner Tessman, he is 6’3, 178 lbs. AND has played more minutes than Gianluca. His stock is rising.
    Also, Bryan Kato has been trainingg and playing with the first team. He may be the 6 we have been promised.

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    • Bryan Kayo (20) has been playing sparingly in the reserve leagues. He’s got a lot of ground to make up before he can be in consideration ahead of any names listed in this article.
      Ledezma’s size is not a huge hinderance at his likely positions (Wide attacker or ACM). He’s not too dissimilar to DMB or Donovan. He’ll hopefully add a little more muscle to improve his durability.
      Tessmann should have been mentioned as a possibility for the CDM back-up. But to be honest there are a lot of Central Midfielders who could be challenging for consideration this cycle. We’ll just have to see which players distinguish themselves.

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      • DMB and Donovan were quick in traffic, quick in ten yards, and fast in space. Ledezma has barely any of those intangibles.

      • Tessmann was one of a few players who were cut off the list by mistake due to an early edit issue. He’s definitely on the radar, though he still has a lot to prove to be considered a strong roster option.

      • Twomilerule – correct…he doesn’t have the speed of Donovan or DMB, but he has excellent close control and the ability to place passes, crosses, & free-kicks on a dime. At times as this team matures we will face sides that bunker & counter. We’ll need someone who can maintain possession and pick the lock. Ledezma & Reyna are 2 guys who can provide that.
        Watch our set pieces in the WC….we desperately needed someone (anyone) who could actually deliver a dangerous ball.
        I’m not saying that Ledezma is someone who should be in the XI (or even in the 23), but his type is a situational player we do need. Gone are the days that a team can find success at the WC with only one style of play/player. And while the technical abilities of our base players has improved drastically over the last 30 years we still haven’t developed anyone who would be perceived as a real threat regardless of the style of the game we’re playing.

    • Not sure who you’re confusing Ledezma with but he’s not 5-6, 135, wasn’t even close to that small at the U-20 World Cup three years ago. There is something to be said for him needing to stay healthy, but the talent is there.

      Speaking of heights, when did Tessmann become 6-3? Might be time for a move to centerback if he’s actually grown that much more.

      Agreed on Kayo, which is why he’s on the list.

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      • I also thought Tessman was only 6’1ish, until someone pointed out he was 6’3. MLS had him at 6’4. Now I see why he almost ended up playing American football.

  8. Well, I think Tyler Adams is a lock no matter who the coach may be.
    FWIW I flew into Paris on Dec. 21 and as we de-boarded the plane and before passport control there was someone standing with a sign that said M. Tyler Adams. I thought what! There’s only one Tyler Adams.

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  9. Projecting a team 4 years in advance is hard. Predicting one with a HUGE question mark at the manager position is almost impossible. IF the USSF does a real search and hires a quality manager than I’d expect we’re likely to see some changes to what will be the criteria used to select players for the pool that makes up the roster.
    A couple significant things to watch for (besides who the manager is) that will drastically impact the roster are:
    1) U-20 WC performance. Who is selected to represent us at the U-20 WC and how they and the team perform. Top performers will graduate to the Olympic Team.
    2) Olympics. It’s been a LONG time since we’ve participated at the Olympics. Players who have strong showings in this competition will likely find themselves in line to challenge for a WC roster spot.
    3) CB development. Heading into the 2022 WC one of our weakest positions and biggest concerns. Can we make CB a strength in this cycle?
    4) CF development. Another weakness of 2022 roster. Can we find a consistent scoring threat? Can we convince Balogun to join us?
    5) Tactics & Formations: Largely dependent upon who the manager will be, but it has be be looked at even if Gregg’s contract is extended. Is the 4-3-3 our best base formation? How can we get the most balanced and capable 11 on the field together?
    6) Lastly the depth and technical abilities of this cycles player pool requires that USSF/Manager do away with the “MLS Quota” and “Vibes Guys”. There is NO room for players like Roldan, Long, and Morris who cannot contribute to product on the field. Every roster spot counts and each player has to be capable of contributing in any game/against any opponent.

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    • Mr. Space,

      “Can we make CB a strength in this cycle?…… Can we find a consistent scoring threat?”

      Who is we?

      Let’s say Gregg remains.
      He’s not going to be developing our CB’s and he’s not going to be out there developing our scoring threats.

      The clubs will be doing that.

      He’s not really positioned to “develop” players
      For example, Gregg had zero to do with developing Ream but at least he finally called him in. And at least he had the sense to play him.

      Gregg did invest a lot of playing time on Long, Zimmerman and Ferreira and we saw how that went.

      All Gregg can do is hope for the best and pick the right ones to call in.
      They can also recruit harder but I don’t think they get Balogun until at least after the 2024 Euros. He’ll have a much clearer picture of his England future, or lack thereof, by then.

      4 years out there’s an awful lot of things that could happen to alter the team picture. I’m old enough to remember when players like Johnathan Amon, Konrad De La Fuente, Paxton Pomykal, Chris Richards, Reggie Cannon, and Djorde were some of the names being thrown around as bets to make Qatar.

      Nowadays you might see Paxton Aaronson in a USMNT shirt before you see Paxton Pomykal in one.

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      • The “WE” I was speaking of is the US in general. I agree 100% that players develop at their clubs and not at the National team (youth or Sr.). There are a number of very promising CB prospects popping up (Tomkinson, Wynder, Graig, Che, Campbell, etc….), the question is will they reach the level required before 2026 to insure Gregg (or whomever the manager is) can’t justify including someone playing at the sub-par level Aron Long was since his injury.
        Your comment “I’m old enough to remember when players like Jonathan Amon, Konrad De La Fuente, Paxton Pomykal, Chris Richards, Reggie Cannon, and Djorde were some of the names being thrown around as bets to make Qatar”, makes me wonder how closely you were actually paying attention ahead of the Roster announcement for Qatar. Chris Richards would have been there if not for his continued injury issues. Cannon was likely down to a coin flip (Reggie Vs. Moore). Djorde was begged for by fans in place of Morris and/or Roldan….this was clearly a Manager’s decision based on who was more familiar with the team (Because Gregg refused to call Djorde in for the past 2 years, preferring Roldan & Morris effort & vibes). Aron & Pomykal were derailed by injuries early in the cycle and never returned to prominence (although many would have liked to have given Pomykal a chance ahead of Roldan over the last 2 years).
        Your comments regarding Gregg not developing talent (i.e. Ream…but finally called him in) but investing time in players (i.e. Ferreira, Long, & Zimmerman), is a clear indication that Gregg lacked the ability to evaluate talent. Everyone who watched him play after the injury knew Long was not good enough for the international game. Yet Gregg continued to call him and play him instead of giving time to others (EPB or CCV) to get them more prepared. Everyone watching knew that Morris & Roldan were out of their depth, yet Gregg continued calling them in instead of others (Djorde, Tillman, etc…) who could have possibly been of benefit to the team.

      • Mr. Space,

        “Your comment “I’m old enough to remember when players like Jonathan Amon, Konrad De La Fuente, Paxton Pomykal, Chris Richards, Reggie Cannon, and Djorde were some of the names being thrown around as bets to make Qatar”, makes me wonder how closely you were actually paying attention ahead of the Roster announcement for Qatar.”

        Really? There wasn’t much to pay attention to since Gregg telegraphed almost everything he did save for Ream. And injury robbed him of gifting Ariolla a ticket to Qatar.

        “Chris Richards would have been there if not for his continued injury issues.”

        That’s what they always say about Chris. “If not for………………..”. It’s getting old.

        There was a time when there were very serious questions about the long term prospects for the injury prone Tyler, Pulisic, and Weah.
        They appear to have calmed down those concerns but it took a long time. Chris has yet to have a lengthy consistent run of injury free top class play.

        Don’t get me wrong, if he was healthy and fit I would have brought him to Qatar but, in USMNT terms, he’s still basically a “prospect” like many of our players and is not the automatic starter that many seem to feel he is.

        He still has to answer a lot of questions the first one being:

        Can he be a regular at Palace?

        And the second one being:

        If he’s so good why did Bayern, a team that had center back needs at the time, let him go so easily?

        I’m sure Bayern would have cut Zimmerman, McKenzie, and even Aaron too but it’s a question worth asking.

        “ Cannon was likely down to a coin flip (Reggie Vs. Moore).”

        Both of whom should never have been in contention for a spot. Much as I like Shaq he’s a sloppy player and has a love/hate relationship with the ball. This was the worst I’ve seen him play. Every second he was on in Qatar, I was terrified that he would do something very bad.

        Reggie seems like a great person. A greater person than a player.

        “Djorde was begged for by fans in place of Morris and/or Roldan….this was clearly a Manager’s decision based on who was more familiar with the team (Because Gregg refused to call Djorde in for the past 2 years, preferring Roldan & Morris effort & vibes). ”

        I thought all of the players mentioned were scrubs. I was hoping to be wrong about Djorde, thinking that he had a chance to maybe be the next Stu Holden, but I needed to see him play a bit for the USMNT.

        Gregg gave up on Djorde at least a month before he had to and that was weird given that Djorde struck me as potentially useful in Qatar. Nothing wrong with being decisive but unlike the rest of the world, World Cup managers of talent limited teams need to be much more flexible when it comes to being decisive.

        His about face on Ream shows he can be forced at the point of a gun to be flexible but that seems like more of an outlier with our Leadership Program person..

        Djorde became like the Ex that no one is supposed to talk about. I would not have minded Jordan had he been healthy and fit, but I don’t think he’s been that for some time now. The USMNT capped the wrong Roldan.

        “Aron & Pomykal were derailed by injuries early in the cycle and never returned to prominence (although many would have liked to have given Pomykal a chance ahead of Roldan over the last 2 years)”.

        That’s not saying much.

        “Your comments regarding Gregg not developing talent (i.e. Ream…but finally called him in) but investing time in players (i.e. Ferreira, Long, & Zimmerman), is a clear indication that Gregg lacked the ability to evaluate talent. Everyone who watched him play after the injury knew Long was not good enough for the international game. Yet Gregg continued to call him and play him instead of giving time to others (EPB or CCV) to get them more prepared. Everyone watching knew that Morris & Roldan were out of their depth, yet Gregg continued calling them in instead of others (Djorde, Tillman, etc…) who could have possibly been of benefit to the team.”

        Not necessarily.

        Of course Gregg can evaluate talent. He included Ream and even started him all 4 games. That’s proof that he knows talent when he sees it and can even utilize it when you threaten him with extinction. I imagine the thought of Aaron trying to mark Marcus Rashford or Bukayo Saka would give anyone nightmares. Aaron is another one of those high character guys that every manager loves but who unfortunately can’t actually play. At least not at this time and at this level.

        You value talent as the main thing.
        Gregg does not.
        Talent alone is not Gregg’s first and only priority.
        He’s setting up a certain system, a way of playing and his first priority seems to be finding players who fit in with the way Gregg wants them to play.

        For example, there was his maniacal insistence on proving to everyone near and far that Fake 9 Ferreira was proof that his tactical solution to the lack of a #9 was working. Ferreira did his best but he wasn’t anywhere near powerful enough to assert himself at the World Cup level. I have to look at a lineup to remind myself that he actually played in the World Cup because I can’t remember a thing he did.

        My guess is Gregg is driven to prove that his tactics and system are so good that anyone can play under them and succeed. And if you’re being honest this is certainly why they hired Gregg in the first place.

        The generic “THEY” must have known this about Gregg.

        Couva was such a screw up and a disaster that the USSF was left with a no players and no system. They had to start from ground up.
        Gregg was charged with setting up a culture around and in support of a system and would be maniacal about it. They picked Gregg because they felt they could control him .

        You can argue with the tactics and players selections , Gregg’s basic game day incompetence and his feckless media approach (he’s a very bad liar) .

        But he did build a team but that qualified and advanced out of the group.
        So instead a smoldering black hole, there is now the basics of a team there that can be built on for 2026.

        Managers can be changed.
        Players can be swapped in or out
        Tactics can be changed.

        Whether that is done by Gregg or someone else it’s irrelevant. The heavy lifting is done.

        If they want to they can now bring in a real manager and add real players.

        None of the talent that has been lost or alienated will be missed all that much (except for Gio a huge loss ). It’s a miracle Gregg hasn’t lost Pulisic by now. But again that’s minor stuff .

        The USSSF now has a USMNT that they can play with. Hopefully those clowns move it in the right direction going forward.

  10. These projections are fun but, hopefully Gregg’s replacement (I said hopefully after all) will give everybody in the pool equal consideration. I personally admire Tyler Adams but he should have to prove himself yet again and should be pulled if somebody else performs better. It is just too tempting when you have a young core to label them a “golden generation” and to keep playing them over and over again. This seems especially true with the USA where the federation seems more interested in marketing personalities and wouldn’t want to have to make new promos should the team change.

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  11. Always hard to do these projections. I think the players from the 2022 WC roster will be pressed hard by talented players for roster spots and potentially starting 11 spots come the 2026 WC. Paxten Aaronson looks likely to be wide forward in a 4-3-3 variation, or second forward option in a two striker set up for Frankfurt. Both of those positions suit him better than as a CM.

    Some other players to watch for:

    D: Campbell, Wydner

    M: Alvarado, Pomykal, Tsakiris, Cremanschi

    A: Ngoma, Yappi, Toure, Sanogo, Harper

    I really like the look of Ngoma who at 17 has the physical tools of a man already. Scored 2 goals in 7 appearances at RW and his season was effected by a hamstring injury. Really excited to see him this upcoming season, and in that Red Bull first team rotation. Could be a U20 call up if he starts the season strong.

    Sanogo is back to scoring goals at a high clip for Union Berlin’s u19 team, and in strong contention to be a u20 WC striker in May.

    Both Yappi and Toure look strong contenders for a good amount of first team minutes for Colorado this up coming season.

    An MLS team should already be talking to Louisville City about
    Wydner.

    Pomykal still has the ability to be a game changing 8.

    Really impressed with Alvarado and Tsakiris when he was with the U20’s.

    If Argentina is seriously looking at Cremanschi then it’s obvious the dude has talent.

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  12. I don’t know why everyone is continuing this push for Paredes at LB. He played a half of an MLS season at LWB out of necessity. He has been a winger/ attacker his entire youth, and now he has been playing winger at Wolfsburg for their first team. The U20’s have him as a winger/ attacker not as a LB/LWB. He may turn into a LWB, but Wolfsburg have stated that they see him as an attacker not as a defender.

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    • One more defender to add to that list is Jalen Neal of the Galaxy. At 6’3” and pretty athletic and looks to have a good reading of the game and decent passing skills. Wouldn’t be surprised if he starts getting rotated into the Galaxy first team. He also looks a good bet to be one of the starting CB’s at the U20 WC.

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