The players who could challenge for places in the USMNT’s 2026 World Cup squad

It’s been pushed dwelling all through the previous year-and-a-half that the U.S. has some of the youthful groups among the many high 30 in FIFA’s world rankings. Consequently, most of the gamers who represented the nation in Qatar will nonetheless be in competition for roster consideration in three and a half years. Nonetheless, 11 males from the 26 chosen this time round will flip 30 by the conclusion of 2026, leaving loads of areas probably up for grabs.

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With that in thoughts, right here’s a provisional information to greater than 30 gamers who watched the event from afar this 12 months however are value monitoring over the following few years. We’ll begin with the workforce’s largest space of want.

Strikers

Ever since Jozy Altidore final appeared for the U.S. in 2019, the workforce has been begging for somebody to show themselves worthy of being their first-choice striker. It was arguably the most important storyline throughout this present cycle, solely rivaled by this system’s youth motion. From the 2022 World Cup roster, Haji Wright (24 years previous) could have an opportunity to convey a veteran presence if he continues scoring in Turkey, whereas Josh Sargent (22) will start the brand new cycle in pole place to steer the road after beginning twice in Qatar. Sadly for Jesús Ferreira (21), his struggles over the previous few months go away his standing for debate — though he has loads of time to point out why he was a daily starter for Berhalter earlier than the event.

The dearth of striker choices was common in 2022 for the U.S., whatever the age degree. Take, for instance, the U-20s, who received the CONCACAF U-20 Championship to concurrently clinch a return to the Olympics in 2024 and a spot within the U-20 World Cup… however they performed midfielders Paxten Aaronson and Niko Tsakiris as false nines within the semifinal and remaining, respectively. 

Ricardo Pepi, 19 years previous, FC Groningen (on mortgage from Augsburg)

No participant off the World Cup roster noticed his identify pattern on Twitter extra steadily throughout (and after) the U.S.’s run in Qatar than Pepi. Probably the most profitable striker in qualifying narrowly missed the squad regardless of rediscovering his scoring type with Groningen. He ought to problem Sargent from the offset for the No. 9 shirt, together with his time within the Netherlands including good final-third interaction to associate with his studying of the sport, his urgent means and rediscovered ending chops.

Daryl Dike, 22, West Bromwich Albion 

“What if?” situations encompass Dike at this stage of his profession, largely attributable to his unavailability because the 2021 Gold Cup. The previous Orlando Metropolis striker earned a transfer to West Brom in January however has been restricted to simply 4 appearances all 12 months attributable to recurring leg muscle injuries. Like Sargent and Pepi, his mix of goalscoring prowess and urgent acumen would make him supreme for the trendy sport if he can exterminate his harm bug. In reality, it’s cheap to surprise if he would have been the most effective all-around choice for 2022 had he been wholesome all through the previous 12 months.

Past these two, the choices get far more potential. Matthew Hoppe (21) gained cult hero standing throughout the 2021 Gold Cup, however a number of head-scratching membership strikes have left him buried deep on Middlesbrough’s bench. Arsenal’s Folarin Balogun (21) has U.S. eligibility however has represented England at each main youth worldwide degree and will additionally symbolize Nigeria, in that case . He expects to make a decision quickly concerning his worldwide profession, however with eight objectives in 15 Ligue 1 appearances for Reims, he would shortly rise to the higher tier of the U.S.’s striker pool.

Cade Cowell (19) has loads of promise however largely options on the wing for the San Jose Earthquakes and has but to show his talent set into common MLS purpose contributions. Darren Yapi (18) is inexperienced, however could possibly be in a great membership state of affairs to get minutes quickly with Colorado. It’s early, however except Pepi, Sargent or Dike settle into constant goalscoring standing in Europe, we could also be in for one more 4 years of enjoying the new hand.

Attacking midfielders and wingers

That is arguably the very lowest space of want when trying on the present roster. Christian Pulisic (24) and Tim Weah (22) gave no motive to rotate out of the lineup, leaving Dortmund common Giovanni Reyna (20) and Leeds starter Brenden Aaronson (22) as bench choices. Take into account, nonetheless, that Jordan Morris might be 31 in 2026 and a distinct coach could also be extra inclined to shift Weah to striker if the futility up high continues.

Malik Tillman, 20, Rangers (on mortgage from Bayern Munich)

One among the many shortlist of debatable roster snubs for this World Cup. Tillman dedicated to the U.S. and earned 4 caps in the summertime friendlies after representing Germany by the U-21 degree. He’s gotten common minutes this 12 months with Rangers and featured of their Champions League group stage matches. He, like many younger American gamers, have yet to establish permanent residence in any particular position, with the caveat that he additionally has the potential to slot in as a finesse striker.

Richy Ledezma, 22, PSV Eindhoven

Ledezma lastly made a long-awaited emergence with PSV this season, touchdown him again on the radar of El Tri attributable to his twin nationality. A pointy probability creator with a precocious eye for harmful passes, Ledezma’s work charge would make him a great addition alongside equally industrious Pulisic and Aaronson. He has one U.S. cap to his identify, the place he logged two assists in simply 22 minutes off the bench towards Panama in November 2020.

Paxten Aaronson, 19, Eintracht Frankfurt

Among the many standouts within the U-20 Championship, Aaronson made a $4 million move to Eintracht Frankfurt after the MLS season. Able to enjoying out extensive, however possible greatest as a second striker or No. 10, the quickest abstract of what differentiates his sport from brother Brenden’s is buying and selling among the elder’s physicality for extra incisive distribution and a bit extra accuracy in his capturing. He’ll want a while to adapt to Germany, however this transfer already has him in a high-level setting to start working to show a U-20 golden ball efficiency into senior-level prominence.

Look past Aaronson on the U-20 roster and also you’ll discover one other trio of promising prospects. Quinn Sullivan (22) may see an additional enhance in his minutes with Philadelphia after Aaronson’s departure, having landed on the CONCACAF U-20 Championship greatest XI and making 38 MLS appearances during the last two seasons. 

Caden Clark (23) broke out with the New York Pink Bulls in 2020 however his career stalled out after a few loans with the MLS facet after a switch to RB Leipzig. Diego Luna (22) is a vivacious competitor on the ball who moved from El Paso Locomotive to Actual Salt Lake over the summer time. Each Clark and Luna rose by the Barcelona Residency Academy in Arizona, displaying one other path to growth within the nation past MLS academies.

Central midfielders

It’s onerous to see any of Yunus Musah (20), Weston McKennie (24) and Tyler Adams (23) supplanted from first-choice standing between now and 2026. That mentioned, rather a lot can change in a four-year span, accidents are at all times unpredictable, and the depth past them was restricted in Qatar as Luca de la Torre (24) went unused attributable to lingering health problems with his personal.

Gianluca Busio, 20, Venezia

In hindsight, Busio arguably ought to have been on the World Cup roster over the hobbled De la Torre. The Greensboro native caught round with Venezia after their relegation to Serie B and is not a daily starter, however has every part essential to be a top-level deep-lying playmaker. His membership state of affairs may use a swift enchancment, however his contact on the ball, line-breaking passing means and free kick prowess ought to maintain him within the pool, at the same time as he will get rare membership begins.

Jack McGlynn, 19, Philadelphia Union

Largely that includes over Paxten Aaronson within the Union’s four-man diamond midfield this 12 months, McGlynn fared properly in an MLS Cup begin to cap off the season. He could possibly be in line for greater than the 1,003 regular-season minutes he logged in 2022 — even when Alejandro Bedoya comes again for one more season at age 36. Like many Union merchandise, McGlynn’s excessive work charge stands out alongside his tidy passing sport and enhancing defensive chops. One would suspect he’ll get a transfer away from MLS earlier than later, having signed with Roc Nation Sports activities as the first MLS player among the many Jay-Z-founded company’s clientele.

Taylor Sales space, 21, FC Utrecht

After coming by RSL’s academy, Sales space has emerged with two objectives in 9 video games with FC Utrecht. The midfielder made a transfer away from Bayern Munich over the summer time, and has dealt with the adjustment to common Eredivisie minutes properly. Sales space has spectacular tempo and work charge from his growth for granted wing again, bringing a marauder’s dribbling prowess into the guts of the pitch to nice success.

Amongst home choices, Eryk Williamson (25) and Paxton Pomykal (22) have been within the broader participant pool for the bygone cycle and will inherit the box-to-box position stuffed by Cristian Roldan (27) this time period. The cousin of Queen Latifah, Williamson was a part of the 2021 Gold Cup-winning squad and impressed upon coming back from an ACL surgical procedure. Equally, Pomykal had a stretch of promising seasons interrupted by a knee harm in 2020. He efficiently stayed wholesome for the total 2022 season and is a well-rounded midfielder who’s able to breaking traces together with his passing and monitoring again to defend within the remaining third when wanted.

Full backs

That is one other space of relative power for the U.S. Antonee Robinson (25) and Sergiño Dest (22) are fairly protected bets to stay the primary selection pairing forward of 2026, whereas Joe Scally (19) is already a Bundesliga common regardless of failing to function in Qatar. 

John Tolkin, 20, New York Pink Bulls

The Chatham, New Jersey native has made 53 begins over the previous two seasons for his home-state membership, really showcasing his potential over a breakout 2022. Tolkin performs with a high-octane work charge which makes him an endearing determine, whereas his preliminary upbringing as a midfielder offers him spectacular tips and playmaking potential across the opponent’s field. Nonetheless, he’s greater than an attacker out of place, because the Pink Bulls have helped him enhance his defensive positioning whereas enabling him to push transition play on the break.

Kevin Paredes, 19, VfL Wolfsburg

Paredes is beginning to get a run-out with Wolfsburg after leaving boyhood membership D.C. United final winter. He moved away from MLS for over $7 million after shortly changing into one of its best two-way left backs in 2021, averaging over six progressive carries per 90 alongside 18.9 defensive pressures per 90. Wolfsburg additionally gave him his first Bundesliga begin at left midfield, however he missed the ultimate 4 matches earlier than the World Cup with calf issues. Nonetheless, he often is the most well-rounded choice and must get a glance because the U.S. finds a secure backup for Robinson.

Justin Che, 19, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim (on mortgage from FC Dallas)

Che didn’t follow Bayern Munich after spending the primary half of 2021 with their II workforce, however a transfer to Hoffenheim has him getting extra constant minutes. At 6-foot-1, Che brings measurement out extensive alongside his spectacular tempo and enhancing tackling means. He’s repeatedly beginning at proper again and proper midfield for the Bundesliga facet’s second workforce and will discover his everlasting transfer away from FC Dallas on the finish of a one-year mortgage.

Che could be the most recent Dallas product to make the leap overseas, following the trail beforehand traveled by occasional 2022 qualifying roster member Reggie Cannon (24) and Bryan Reynolds (21), who’s getting common begins on mortgage at Belgian facet KVC Westerlo after being an underutilized reserve with AS Roma. Cannon was missed for DeAndre Yedlin and Shaq Moore in Berhalter’s remaining World Cup roster, however has amassed 28 caps and is trying comfy in his third season with Boavista in Portugal. Nonetheless, proper again is in fairly good condition with Dest and Scally having already established themselves in Europe’s greatest leagues.

The U.S. was capable of exit the World Cup with no need to name upon a backup choice for Robinson, however the margins are extremely tremendous when a place’s depth chart is one-man deep. George Bello (20) already has seven senior caps to his identify, however he’s turn out to be a rotational determine with second-division Arminia Bielefeld. Jonathan Gómez (19) made a transfer from USL facet Louisville Metropolis to Actual Sociedad’s B-team over the summer time, and has already represented each the U.S. and Mexico on the senior worldwide degree.

Heart backs

Whereas striker turned the workforce’s most evident downside space, the 2022 cycle was additionally characterised by a endless rotation of middle backs. Walker Zimmerman (29) had a combined event in Qatar after anchoring the workforce by qualifying, and he could possibly be aged out together with Ream, relying on the development of some key gamers. This group is headlined by a pair who virtually actually would have made the roster for Qatar in the event that they’d been wholesome for choice.

Miles Robinson, 25, Atlanta United

Robinson was a daily starter in qualifying alongside Zimmerman and had an unforgettable winner towards Mexico within the Nations League, however he might be value monitoring as he comes again from an Achilles tear with Atlanta. He additionally has the kind of tempo which was sorely missing towards the Netherlands, in addition to being one of many pool’s largest threats within the air to assist amend the workforce’s frequent struggles on set items. If he can return to his caliber earlier than the harm, he ought to be a front-runner to start out for the U.S. repeatedly for the upcoming cycle.

Chris Richards, 22, Crystal Palace

Like Robinson, Richards is a favourite to be a fixture within the U.S. backline for years to come back. An ideal athlete, he’s additionally among the best passing middle backs within the pool and earned a Premier League transfer because of constant play with Hoffenheim final season. Accidents have saved him from including to his three league appearances for Palace, however he’s an important match for Patrick Vieira’s ideology and ought to be a part of the membership’s ongoing youth revolution as soon as he’s at one hundred pc.

Auston Trusty, 24, Birmingham Metropolis (on mortgage from Arsenal)

Trusty’s transfer away from Colorado was initially panned by Arsenal followers, seen as little greater than Stan Kroenke attempting to maneuver a participant from one in every of his golf equipment to a different for optimum monetary alternative. Nonetheless, the middle again was nominated for EFL Championship participant of the month in October as he has capably anchored Birmingham Metropolis’s backline in his first season overseas. Whether or not or not he’ll ever crack a Mikel Arteta facet stays to be decided, however he hasn’t regarded misplaced in a aggressive league, is a uncommon left-footed defender on this U.S. pool and is as comfy with the ball at his ft as he’s enjoying within the air.

Joshua Wynder (17) appears more likely to observe Gómez in making a transfer from Louisville to Europe within the close to future. He earned 1,744 minutes for one of many American second-division’s best possible golf equipment, and is more likely to command a seven-figure fee with Champions League suitors within the combine. Already boasting European seasoning, James Sands (22) and Mark McKenzie (23) featured in qualifying below Berhalter and are regulars for Rangers and Genk, respectively. Each are succesful ball-playing defenders who’re capable of distribute from deep and maintain stride with faster opponents.

Goalkeepers

Zack Steffen, 27, Middlesbrough (on mortgage from Manchester Metropolis)

It’s unlikely that we’ve seen the final of Steffen, who has 29 caps and spent most of this cycle as the highest choice between the posts earlier than Matt Turner (28) emerged because the extra reliable keeper. Steffen has struggled since ending his mortgage with Düsseldorf in 2019-20, and can hope to start out the brand new cycle on the appropriate foot as Middlesbrough’s starter. He has proven each the shot-stopping prowess and talent to play out of the again essential for contemporary goalkeepers; the problem lately has been his wild inconsistency after successfully dropping two seasons as Ederson’s understudy.

Gabriel ‘Gaga’ Slonina, 18, Chelsea 

At a remarkably younger age for the place, Slonina has already turned strong MLS pay into a $10 million-plus move to Chelsea. He was among the many league’s greatest keepers throughout the first half of 2022 earlier than some youthful errors plagued him down the house stretch. However, The Athletic’s resident goalkeeping skilled, Matt Pyzdrowski, deems him the lads’s nationwide workforce’s “best goalkeeping expertise in almost 20 years.”

Slonina’s transfer away from Chicago opens a path to common begins for U-20 starter Chris Brady (18). Whereas a pair months older than Slonina, Brady made his MLS debut within the workforce’s season finale. Fellow Illinois native Roman Celentano (22) impressed in his first season with FC Cincinnati, whereas Raleigh-born Chituru Odunze (20) repeatedly begins for Leicester Metropolis’s U-21s after incomes his first spot in a U.S. senior camp in late 2020. 

(Picture: ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP through Getty Pictures)

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