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Pepi, Aaronson headline USMNT options for Olympic roster

The U.S. men’s national team has a busy summer on its hands with involvement in the 2024 Copa America and Paris Olympics vastly approaching.

Both Gregg Berhalter and Marko Mitrovic have several major decisions to make regarding their rosters, knowing strong runs in each tournament are expected. Unlike the Copa America, where Berhalter will have many of his first-choice options available, Olympic rules state that rosters can only have three players older than 23-years-old.

A lot of the players in the current USMNT pool can fall into both categories, but may be saved for one tournament or the other.

With both competitions coming up this summer, here is a closer look at which USMNT players could use an opportunity at the Olympics:

Ricardo Pepi

Ricardo Pepi remains high on the USMNT’s striking pecking order, but a limited club role this season could see him passed over for others at the Copa America.

Pepi, 21, is eligible for Mitrovic’s Olympic roster and very well could lead the line for the United States. The former FC Dallas homegrown has tallied nine goals for PSV this season in 36 combined appearances.

However, Luuk De Jong’s goalscoring abilities and veteran presence have made it tough for Pepi to earn consistent minutes in Holland this season.

With Folarin Balogun, Haji Wright, Josh Sargent, and Brandon Vazquez also fighting for international opportunities this summer, Pepi might be the odd man out based off his lack of consistent playing time (693 minutes this season).

Brenden Aaronson

Another American attacker that could be of good use in the Olympic squad is Brenden Aaronson.

Aaronson is finishing his loan spell at Union Berlin in the German Bundesliga, finding better moments in 2024 compared to 2023. The 23-year-old has scored twice in 33 combined appearances for Union Berlin, totaling just under 1,200 minutes of playing time.

Aaronson’s loan spell ultimately hasn’t gone as expected and inclusion in the Olympic roster might see him have a better chance of playing this summer.

Auston Trusty

The USMNT has ample centerback options heading into the summer and although Auston Trusty has been a regular for Sheffield United, an Olympic call-up might be what’s best for him.

Trusty has made 28 combined appearances in his first season at Bramall Lane, logging 2,212 minutes of action so far. The 25-year-old would be one of the senior options for Mitrovic to consider, bringing valuable experience to what ultimately will be a young roster.

Tim Ream, Chris Richards, Cameron Carter-Vickers, and Mark McKenzie will also be fighting for Copa America involvement and might all have a leg up on Trusty, who only has two senior caps to his name.

Tanner Tessmann

Although Venezia would’ve wanted to be back in Serie A by now, a drop back to Serie B has certainly helped Tanner Tessmann grow as a midfielder.

Tessmann, 22, has been one of the key bright spots in a Venezia squad seeking promotion back to the top flight. He has scored six goals and added three assists in 33 appearances this season, recently scoring a brace in a crucial league win over Brescia.

Tessmann has been part of Mitrovic’s plans this cycle, making nine appearances to date for the Under-23’s compared to his two senior caps.

Weston McKennie, Yunus Musah, Tyler Adams among others will have the Copa America opportunities this summer, bearing any injuries. Tessmann’s best chance of seeing time this summer will likely occur in Paris.

Lennard Maloney

A USMNT senior debutant last October, Lennard Maloney is another midfield option that might be good for Mitrovic to have.

The 24-year-old has been a regular contributor for Heidenheim this Bundesliga campaign, totaling 2,261 minutes in 28 combined appearances. Maloney, a physical and smart midfielder, could bring leadership to the Olympic squad, and ultimately boost his long-term USMNT chances with a strong tournament in Paris.

Similar to Tessmann, Maloney is behind several midfielders on the pecking order, but that could change by summer’s end.

Zack Steffen

Zack Steffen made the move back to MLS in hopes of getting his club career back on track and now could be hoping for Olympic inclusion to do the same on the international level.

The 29-year-old has made 29 appearances for the USMNT to date, but now has several faces in front of him such as Matt Turner, Ethan Horvath, and Drake Callender. Steffen still is an option for Berhalter down the road, and despite Mitrovic having younger options like Gaga Slonina, Patrick Schulte, and Chris Brady in the mix, Steffens veteran presence could be important in a knockout tournament.

Brandon Vazquez

Brandon Vazquez has hit the ground running in Mexico this season and now could be in the mix for an Olympic call-up.

The 25-year-old forward has netted nine goals in 19 appearances for Monterrey, totaling 1,078 minutes of action so far. Vazquez, who has mainly featured internationally during the 2023 CONCACAF Gold Cup, as well as international friendlies, is likely on the outside of Berhalter’s top-four striking options for the USMNT.

Both Vazquez and Pepi might be the odd-men out in terms of the Copa America striker options.

George Bello

Antonee Robinson remains the USMNT’s top left back option going forward, but the fight for the No. 2 job remains well open this summer.

Enter George Bello.

Bello, 22, has been one of the more productive fullbacks in the USMNT pool this season, making 27 combined appearances to date. In his first season with Austrian side LASK, Bello’s versatility has been on display as a left back, left wing back, and left midfielder.

He’s earned seven USMNT caps to date, but could be an option over young players in the pool.

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Cardoso is age eligible but he isn’t mentioned in the article or comments. He has been doing increasingly well in La Liga. Does everyone assume he will be on the national team for Copa America? If Adams is available, we may not need him for the Copa, so why not the Olympics? What am I missing.

    • I think you’re right about why he’s not on the list. Adams would be #1 and Johnny Soccer #1b. Tyler might not be available and if he is probably will need some rotation. Johnny is above Maloney and Tessmann at this point so he’s not on this list.

      • Adams is most definitely going to need rotation. No way we can or should be thinking of him as a 90 minute every match player. WC, we quite literally ran our midfield into the ground, they had little left for Netherlands. Fortunately, we’re in much better shape now with quality backups and need to start thinking about using this new found depth if we’re ever going to make a deep run in tournament play.
        I’d never dare assume what’s on GGG’s mind, but as I see it, Cardosa is Adams backup and Musah–>McKennie’s, Tillman –> Reyna’s.

  2. this article is confusing Pepi, tessman and bello are age eligible, everyone else would be an overage pick, right? Is Brendan Aaronson an overage or not?

  3. 18 spots is tough roster to pick and even tougher with Copa coming up.
    Would be a great building block if the US could medal and help establish a winning culture.

    • Realistically winning the group over France is a big ask. 2nd in the group would mean a match up with Argentina, Morocco, or Ukraine so that quarterfinal won’t be easy by any stretch. If you get through that you still have to get a result against a team like Spain, France, or the Asian and African teams who don’t have continental tournaments this summer so they could bring big stars (recent contradicting reports on Mo Saleh).

  4. Pepi was used as the model for the Olympic soccer kit unveil so read into that what you will.
    I did think of Trusty as a possible CB option as the U23 pool is lacking there (Che, Wydner injured) and he has played LB/LWB this year and in previous seasons. With only 18 roster spots that’s big. McKenzie could also be a left back in a pinch. You’d think of those two Philly guys will make the roster.
    With Schulte, Slonina, and Brady all sufficient and age eligible I don’t see Zach brought even as a vet leader. I’d be ok with him as a 3rd Copa. Callender just doesn’t excite.
    My dream overage guy is Darlington Nagbe, but I don’t see him doing it.
    If Ferreira gets healthy he could play 2 or 3 different positions but 7 days too old to be age eligible.
    U20 qualifying for WC overlaps Olympics by a week so guys like Campbell, Vargas, and Bajraktarevic are all likely to be in Mexico for that tournament.

    • My stab at 18 man roster, I think it’s pretty close to 2tones from a couple weeks ago.
      GK: Schulte, Slonina
      CB: Thomkinson, Dietz, Trusty (O)
      FB: Tolkin, Wiley, Reynolds
      CM: Tessmann, Busio, McGlynn, Bassett (my least confident prediction), Morris
      W: Yow, P.Aaronson, Paredes,
      F: McGuire, Vazquez (O)
      On the bubble: Cowell, Luna, Harriel, Edelman, Brady, Booth brothers
      Other Overage possibilities: T.Tillman, Mihailovic, Zendajas
      – One or more these guys won’t get released, will be injured, or will replace a NT for Copa do to injury.

    • Don’t understand even keeping Steffen in the discussion at this point. His fundamentals have always been suspect and his numbers have consequently always been mediocre at best. Now that he’s back in MLS he’s playing at least, but his psxg+-/90 and g+ are abysmal. Which honestly doesn’t surprise me. We have better options.

    • Yeah Nagbe pretty much slammed the door on the USMNT when Klinsmann brought him in to sit the bench? Also, when he pretty much said Nagbe is only good in the 6 spot because he has Diego Chara playing next to him.?

      • He played 14 times for Arena and even once for Sarachen. He’s has young kids and said he just didn’t want to be gone for NT camps 5 or 6 times a year for a week or longer each time. Gregg said during MLS is Back he was trying to get him to change his mind. Trying to convince a guy trapped in a resort for month, unable to see his family that he wouldn’t be missing that much probably wasn’t the best timing. To be honest I never really understood Nagbe until he came to Columbus and I watched him every week. Musah reminds me a lot of a young Nagbe, great dribbler, draws fouls, final ball and shot don’t match his other technical skills.

    • “My dream overage guy is Darlington Nagbe, but I don’t see him doing it.”

      ?? Is Darlington the guy who is the difference between the US making a huge positive splash or farting out in shame?

      If he were then I could see sucking up to him and begging him to play.

      But if he isn’t then I don’t see the point.

      The whole process is a dog and pony show( which is an insult to dogs and ponies) but if you are someone who believes Olympics spots are some kind of reward for services rendered, why should Darlington get any kind of reward from the clown car USSF? Why not “reward” a loyal , long standing servant like Acosta or Roldan? At least they have paid their dues.

      • Darlington just ended his streak of 108 consecutive MLS games played (resting after playing 120 at altitude midweek) and I’ve seen probably 90 of them plus another 10-15 playoff games so I’m biased. But I take him because Darlington can calm the midfield where Acosta and Roldan can not. When the game is tight and you just need to hold the ball for a spell and break pressure Nagbe is your guy of those veteran midfielders. He still has pace to defend and beat guys with the ball at his feet. If you want a reward sure send Roldan, but if you want someone who would make the team better it’s Darlington.
        I should have qualified it as dream guy that won’t be busy with Copa America. Yeah I wish Pulisic, Weah, and Dest were going along with age eligible Balo, Reyna, and Pepi but those guys are going to be busy. I’d put Nagbe ahead of any vet CM in MLS and honestly I’d pick him above Luca because he’s stronger on the defensive end and he doesn’t cave under pressure.
        You can call it a dog and pony show if that’s what you feel. France is going to bring a lineup of Ligue 1 starters and there’s talk that Mbappe and Giroud will be included. It’s going to be a great chance for experience for our young guys, whether you want it to be or not.

      • If MBappe and Giroud are there it just reinforces my point that it’s not a serious football event. Those guys are ringers, and would turn it into circus. If France were taking it seriously surely they have some young, hot, developing talent who would benefit both France and themselves from being there. I don’t think France would waste a serious opportunity by putting on a circus.

        Having said that, don’t get me wrong. I’m not against our kids having a good time. I’m sure it will be a wonderful occasion and if I were a player, I’d kill to be there. But not necessarily for the soccer.

        And with Darlington, same thing. Do you want to do serious damage or do you develop people? I’m sure Nagbe can boss a midfield at this level. But maybe a guy like Buff Ariolla, Ferreira, Aidan or Luna ( you know these guys better than me) would benefit from giving it a try?

        I don’t like halfway, half ass efforts. Either go there and try to develop our kids or not.

      • V: I see what you’re saying. Obviously the overage guys are there to sell tickets. But they are also there to fill in spots that wouldn’t allow the team to be competitive. For whatever reason this group doesn’t have a lot of CBs, and a couple more got injured so is it a bigger circus to play Jack McGlynn out of position as a CB or bring Trusty. Likewise, without a CM that can progress the ball either the team is going to be ineffective or have to play a completely different style. France is possibly bringing big names because it’s on home soil so they want to win and some others will too because maybe they missed the WC like Egypt. The matches start before the Opening Ceremonies and the US group matches are not in Paris so they won’t even be in the Olympic village so it won’t be a big party for them. It will be a business trip. A chance to show club and country they are ready for the next step.

      • JR

        “A chance to show club and country they are ready for the next step.”

        In terms of country, probably not with this generation.

        The Olympians will be faced with a tough ask to get into the either the Copa squad or the 2026 squad.

        The problem goes back to the lack of decent veterans post Couva. They cleaned house but the shortage of placeholder vets of decent quality meant a lot of our kids became USMNT regulars pretty early, maybe even prematurely.

        The only decent holdover veterans were Ream and Pulisic And CP 11 is a pretty young veteran. IV is hoping for Ream to drop dead from old age but he’s the only one. And maybe Brenden who seems to have been exposed.

        Six years later the majority of the serious player pool for WC 2026 remains quite young and quite strong with most not likely to peak until just in time for 2026.. And the players who are most likely to challenge those serious candidates are also quite young and still developing.

        And odds are none of the aforementioned players our best players, will be Olympians, because, at this point they are too good and won’t be released.

        Anyone on the Olympic squad is going to face tough odds to get into the USMNT senior team picture before 2026.

        But you never know.

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