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Mark McKenzie using tough Genk campaign as motivation in latest USMNT opportunity

The 2023-24 Belgian Pro League is certainly one that Mark McKenzie and Genk will want to forget, but luckily for McKenzie, he has a new opportunity with the U.S. men’s national team to focus on.

McKenzie is with the USMNT ahead of the 2024 Copa America group stage, which begins for the Americans on Sunday night. The former Philadelphia Union homegrown defender is one of five centerbacks in Gregg Berhalter’s squad, aiming to feature in the competition for his first cap of 2024.

After not featuring against Colombia and Brazil earlier this month, McKenzie is eager to fight against tough South American opposition this summer.

“I think we have a group of guys, we’re all hungry,” McKenzie told reporters Tuesday. “We’re all competitive and every time we step into this environment, I think the expectations rise. We demand more of ourselves and it makes us demand more of each other, and at the end of the day, that’ll raise performances and raise the levels here.

“You step into a platform like Copa America and now you have a trophy on the line,” he added. “Everyone realizes what we need to do. It’s about putting together quality performances each step of the way, and from there we just continue to grow as a group.”

At club level, McKenzie was one win away from being a Belgian Champion in 2023 but Genk’s quest of lifting the title fell just short on the final day of the season. Since then, he’s remained a stalwart in the Genk backline, but the club took a step back in terms of fighting for silverware on the domestic level.

The 25-year-old logged 44 combined appearances last season, logging over 4,000 minutes of playing time. However, Genk finished fifth in the Belgian Pro League Championship Round, missing out on European Football for next season.

McKenzie’s first priority this summer remains on helping the USMNT win the Copa America before starting a new chase for league success at Genk.

“I think in Genk we feel like we didn’t have the season that we wanted to,” McKenzie said. “We had expectations coming into the year following up on just missing the championship on the final match day of last season. So not stepping up and achieving those goals, I think that was definitely a hit. I had high expectations of myself and I could have been better over the course of the season, but it’s also difficult when we have three games a week, and we also have rotation.

“I think everybody realized that it wasn’t really about who was playing, it was more so about stepping up and doing your role to the fullest of your ability,” he added. “The results we couldn’t really control, and when you go through difficult stretches as well, it’s tough to find that form again. These are the years where we really learned the most about ourselves as players and people, and from there you can grow.”


  1. And apparently got married during the mini break the NT took after the Brazil match. Really miss the Orange Slices podcast, I enjoyed the inside look at young pros today from Mark and the back in my day from Heath Pierce. Plus Mark would get a lot of the current NTers and Heath would bring in the OGs.

      • Yes, go back and listen to some of there interviews. I imagine scheduling got to difficult with Mark in Belgium and Heath working for Its Called Soccer. Not sure what Heath is doing now after they replaced him with Jesse Marsch doing the show with Jimmy and Charlie.

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