USMNT: Soccer's Coming Home

Titans Bastard

has sunil gulati in his sights
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Dec 15, 2002
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THE LAST CYCLE

The cycle ended this morning with an unfortunate 3-1 loss to the Netherlands in the World Cup Round of 16.

It was a very long cycle for the USMNT. The winter World Cup extended the cycle by six months at the tail end, but the qualifying failure at Couva in October 2017 meant that the cycle was effectively extended at the front end too. October 2017 to December 2022, over five years.

By the end of 2017, the USMNT program was in shambles. Sunil Gulati’s naïveté in buying what Jurgen Klinsmann was selling and the dearth of talent coming through the pipeline put the US qualification in peril. The USSF was slow to react, in part because of Gulati’s unwillingness to admit he’d been duped and in part because the USSF’s decision-making was paralyzed during CEO Dan Flynn’s ongoing health problems. By the time Klinsmann was canned and Arena was brought in as a band-aid, it turned out to be too little, too late.

And so the Dave Sarachan interim era began until Berhalter finished his season at Columbus. Christian Pulisic had already arrived, but the player pool needed to rebuilt from scratch. Few first-teamers from the Couva were going to stick around, either because of age or ability or both. Pulisic and Yedlin were the only 2022 WC squad members in that lineup, while Acosta and Ream were the only guys on the bench for 2022. The only other player in the entire squad who was even close to this WC roster was Paul Arriola.

And so Sarachan played out the string giving chances to new players. But even so, it was a slow transition.

At this moment in time, Gio Reyna, Brenden Aaronson, Josh Sargent, Yunus Musah, and Sergino Dest had a combined zero first team appearances. Tim Weah had close to zero. Very few USMNT fans even knew who Musah was.

However, Weston McKennie had just broken through with Schalke and 2017-18 was his first season. Tyler Adams’ first year playing in MLS was 2017 as well. Along with Pulisic, something to build on.

Berhalter’s hiring was controversial because whether he was the right guy for the job or the wrong guy for the job, the USSF obviously cleared the deck for him — all while his brother was a prominent executive. But work continued, Berhalter slowly got less dogmatic as he realized his ideas were too complex for international soccer and too ill-suited for our player pool. It took a bad loss in Nations League to Canada, but we made it through.

Everything ground to a halt with the pandemic. Time together as a group to gain familiarity and absorbs the tactics was lost. But 2021 turned out to be a big year.

First, the Nations League final culminated in a thrilling 3-2 extra time victory over Mexico that produced an iconic picture. Then, the B team managed to grind their way to a Gold Cup title over a close-to-full-strength Mexico team, also in extra time. Finally, a definitive third victory over Mexico in WCQ in Cincinnati.

And finally, the World Cup squad navigated the group stage unbeaten, playing solid soccer throughout, before a respectable performance against the Netherlands that broke against us due to youthful defensive lapses, poor finishing, and general physical + psychological fatigue with which our lack of top-level depth certainly did not help. Nonetheless, the international press was

In the grand scheme of things, a disappointing loss, but I think there’s a lot to be proud of in the 2022 cycle from the players and from Berhalter. The culture of the team is very clearly as healthy as it has ever been and there’s every reason for optimism in the future. Other than the Octagonal, the USMNT won everything there is to win in CONCACAF: Nations League, Gold Cup, and was the only team from the region to advance.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

THE COACH


Gregg Berhalter will soon be out of contract. There is a lot of uncertainty about what both Berhalter and the USSF will want. On the one hand, USSF decision-making historically trends toward inertia and familiarity. On the other hand, a lot of decision-makers in the USSF are pretty new, and the old guard has departed. On the one hand, Berhalter knows that the USMNT job heading into 2026 is nice as far as NT jobs go — a good squad that should get better, a home World Cup. On the other hand, he’s gotten good enough reviews internationally at this tournament that he can probably parlay this into an interesting club gig somewhere, and he seems like the kind of guy who would miss club soccer.

If Berhalter does leave, then what? There will undoubtedly be a few candidates from MLS. It is the international pool that is hard to envision: who will be (a) interested, (b) available, (c) affordable, and (d) suitable? Beats me.

THE SCHEDULE

FIFA hasn’t made it officially official I suppose, but the 2026 WC co-hosts won’t have to qualify for the tournament, which changes the tenor of the cycle and creates a significant hole to fill.

Here are the USMNT’s general commitments:

2023 Nations League final
2023 Gold Cup
2024 Olympics (U23, and we’ve actually qualified this time)
2025 Nations League final
2025 Gold Cup

We have our usual CONCACAF stuff, minus the highest-stakes tournament (WCQ), without much else with which to replace it. One big problem with the rise of UEFA Nations League is that Euro NTs now have fewer friendly dates so it becomes harder to schedule interesting opponents.

Many fans would like to see the US get an invitation to the 2024 Copa America. The appeal is obvious, but there are a few complications. First, guest teams at continental championships do not get automatic releases, so it is unknown how strong a team we could field. Second, the Olympics are in the same summer and the program would have to decide how to allocate U23 players between the two tournaments. We’ll see what happens on this front.

I would like to see attempts to collaborate with CONMEBOL, CAF, and/or AFC as a way to get better competition than the typical friendlies against Panama and Jamaica. I’m not sure exactly what that would look like. The Africa Cup of Nations is biennial, so African teams are pretty busy with WCQ and AFCON qualifiers.

THE PLAYER POOL

This is the most exciting part. The quality of the player pool is going to increase over the next four years. Our core will be in their primes by 2026, few players are going to age out, and new talent will emerge through the pipeline.

GOALKEEPER

Matt Turner
will be 32 by the next World Cup and so he could very well maintain a starting spot. Ethan Horvath will be 31 and could remain in the mix, although I don’t have especially high hopes for either of them beyond being competent backups. Sean Johnson is a valued veteran locker room presence in a young team right now, but he’ll be 37 at the next WC and it will be time to look at younger options.

NEW BLOOD / WORLD CUP OUTSIDERS:

Goalkeeper is the hardest position to project because players develop late and they develop unpredictably: just look at Matt Turner, an extremely unheralded player for a long time. That said, Gabriel Slonina has a big profile, having started in MLS at a very young age and having been sold to Chelsea. He is a long way from earning minutes at Chelsea, and young players at big clubs like that have a very perilous path forward where stagnation is always a real possibility. If things go well for him, he could be fast-tracked. Will Zack Steffen re-enter the pecking order? Maybe!

NAMES FOR LATER IN THE CYCLE:
Chris Brady ’04 (Chicago Fire)
Roman Celentano ’00 (FC Cincinnati)

RIGHT BACK

Sergino Dest
is the unquestioned starter. He’s not a defensive stalwart, but his offensive abilities and technical skill are unmatched in the USMNT RB pool. It would be nice to develop more depth at this position; right now we have a lot of guys, but all of them have been significant downgrades from Dest.

The most obvious bet is Joe Scally, who has grown into a larger role at Borussia Mönchengladbach and who was the youngest player in the WC squad. He has not looked great in limited opportunities for the US and Berhalter didn’t seem to trust him all that much, but I expect that his performances for the US will improve as he settles into life in the Bundesliga.

DeAndre Yedlin and Shaq Moore were the other RBs on the roster. Yedlin will be 33 at the next WC; he’s been a serviceable backup, but won’t be much more than that. Moore really struggles on the ball. Reggie Cannon didn’t make the squad and his outlook is pretty similar here.

NEW BLOOD / WORLD CUP OUTSIDERS:

Scally is the best bet, even if he isn’t technically new blood. Julian Araujo would be on the list if he hadn’t bolted for Mexico (then didn’t make the WC squad, womp womp). Bryan Reynolds’ stock has cooled off since his expensive and failed move from Dallas to Roma, but he’s still young and could emerge as an attacking RB option.

NAMES FOR LATER IN THE CYCLE:
Mauricio Cuevas ’03 (Club Brugge)
Kayden Pierre ’03 (Sporting Kansas City)

CENTER BACK

After a dicey NT career, Tim Ream created an excellent legacy for himself with really strong performances at this WC. He’s 35 and while the manager might see some value keeping him around for a year or two, he’ll be gone by the next World Cup. Walker Zimmerman will be 33, which isn’t too old, but he’ll need to fight to keep his spot. He’s excellent in the air and has been very solid for the US this cycle (Wales penalty notwithstanding). The questions for Walker are whether he declines in his early 30s, and whether his weakness on the ball causes others to surpass him.

Cameron Carter-Vickers will be 28 at the next World Cup and has earned a place in the NT mix for now. Aaron Long came along for the ride, but his stock has been steadily declining and I don’t see the point of keeping him around; he’s not part of the future and now it’s clear he’s ot part of the present for the NT either.

NEW BLOOD / WORLD CUP OUTSIDERS:

Miles Robinson might well have been a starter if not for his injury. Assuming he doesn't lose anything from his injury layoff, he'll be right back in the mix. Probably the speediest option the pool going forward, his ability to recover gives the US the option to more safely play a high line.

Chris Richards had an unlucky cycle where he missed opportunities to make inroads into the XI when he got hurt, and then another injury knocked him off the roster entirely. But he’s a good all-around CB and he’ll get plenty of chances to grab a starting role next cycle.

Mark McKenzie has been up and down at Genk since leaving Philadelphia, but has been in better form lately. We’ll see where this goes. McKenzie is one of the better passers in our CB pool, but isn’t great in the air and is prone to the One Big Mistake in the same way that Tim Ream used to be.

Auston Trusty made a strange move to Arsenal from the Colorado Rapids (likely due to the Kroenke connection), but has Birmingham City fans singing his praises on a weekly basis. It seems like he is close to earning a look.

Erik Palmer-Brown has been a touted prospect for a long time and he’s playing in Ligue 1. My take on him is that he doesn’t read the game fast enough and behaves in a way that is a bit too passive to be a top NT performer. Sometimes CBs can mentally take a step forward later in their careers, though.

NAMES FOR LATER IN THE CYCLE:
Brandan Craig ’04 (Philadelphia Union)
Jalen Neal ’03 (LA Galaxy)
Jonathan Tomkinson ’02 (Norwicy City)
Justin Che ’03 (Hoffenheim)

LEFT BACK

Antonee Robinson
is the guy, and nobody else is that close to him right now. And while Jedi has his flaws, we’d be really screwed if he went down with a serious injury. So it’s nice to have a solid enough option, we need depth and it would be nice to have real competition at this position as well.

NEW BLOOD / WORLD CUP OUTSIDERS:

Berhalter didn’t choose a second true LB for this WC roster, but if he had, it might have been Sam Vines, who broke his leg.

George Bello got a shot this cycle and didn’t impress. He was a very highly touted prospect, but he hasn’t progressed much and has also had injuries. Atlanta sold him to Arminia Bielefeld, but it hasn’t gone well. To my eye, the biggest problem is that his off-the-ball defense is just catastrophic — you can’t be a top level defender if you are a space cadet.

Of uncapped LBs, the next in line may be John Tolkin, a 20 year old who has performed well for RBNY. Tragically, he cut his ridiculous mullet during the past season.

There’s a lot of talk about Kevin Paredes, who I really like as a prospect, but I’m not sure I see it at LB. He’s a winger who has played some wingback. Maybe he’ll convert to a fullback one day, but it hasn’t happened yet. He’s been getting time at winger for Wolfsburg.

Mauricio Isais is a 21 year old left back who starts for Pachuca in Liga MX. Is he especially good? I don’t know. I haven’t watched him, and few USMNT fans know who he is. He’s good enough to start in Liga MX, which sets a floor but doesn’t mean the ceiling is high. Is he interested in playing for the US or Mexico? I also don’t know. Just throwing him out there on resume alone.

NAMES FOR LATER IN THE CYCLE:
Jonathan Gomez ’03 (Real Sociedad)
Caleb Wiley ’04 (Atlanta United)

DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER

Tyler Adams
is a good who had a near-flawless World Cup, other than missing the runner on Netherlands’ first goal. He is the single most irreplaceable player in squad right now IMO. Kellyn Acosta is the backup and he runs hot and cold. I think he’s better than a lot of USMNT fans give him credit for. This mainly because Adams (thankfully) has been healthy lately, so all of Kellyn’s minutes have come as an 8, which he is not very good at. But at the 6, he’s better — he was an absolute legend in the Gold Cup final, for example. Still, this is an area where we are very thin.

NEW BLOOD / WORLD CUP OUTSIDERS:

Aidan Morris burst onto the scene in late 2020 with Columbus, with some starts down the stretch and then an absolutely ridiculously good performance in MLS Cup. Then he blew his ACL. He started to return to normal late last year and the Crew have already been shipping out some of his competition. Fingers crossed he prove his worth in 2023.

The truth is, we just don’t have a lot of athletic terriers for this position right now.

James Sands was on the fringe of the USMNT squad. He was part of the Gold Cup and then the disastrous first half at Honduras, and hasn't played since. A Sands-Acosta midfield was always doomed, but there are questions around Sands upside. He's a very boring player who isn't overly athletic, but coaches all come to love him because he's advanced for his age in his reads for the game. His passing is safe but unadventurous. He feelsa

Leon Flach with Philly has been a really dependable midfielder, but he’s played at the side of the diamond as much as at the base, and his passing is not great. I like him but I’m not sure he has NT potential.

It’s also possible that someone currently seen more as a box-to-box mid will evolve into a 6 over the course of the next few years — such a transition is not uncommon.

NAMES FOR LATER IN THE CYCLE:
Obed Vargas ’05 (Seattle Sounders)
Daniel Edelman ’03 (New York Red Bulls)

BOX-TO-BOX MIDFIELDERS

Weston McKennie
and Yunus Musah. Enough said. But what after them?

Luca de la Torre and Cristian Roldan did not play in the World Cup. DLT is deft on the ball but will always be a real physical lightweight compared to Weston and Yunus. He hasn’t played much at Celta Vigo. He’s the next man up right now, but his position in the depth chart is weakly held IMO.

NEW BLOOD / WORLD CUP OUTSIDERS:

Eryk Williamson had a poorly-timed injury that made his case on the bubble of the roster difficult to make. He could still contribute to this team.

Gianluca Busio has had a rough year — his big chance with the NT didn’t go well enough, Venezia got relegated, and now he’s on the bench while they are having a rough season in Serie B. He clearly has skills, but he needs to hit the gym and figure out how to best put his skills to use. He’s still young enough to put it together, but his stock has fallen.

Keaton Parks was not favored by Berhalter but has been a top performer in MLS when healthy. He’s had some injury problems as well.

Paxton Pomykal is one of my favorites. He’s a little guy who is skilled on the ball and surprisingly tough defensively. He finally strung together a full healthy season this year after missing a lot of time. If healthy, he’d be in the Big Five leagues now. Since he hasn’t been, he needs to spend 2023 building on this past season and showing that he can be durable and that he hasn’t lost anything to the injuries.

Jack McGlynn is a really talented U20 who broke through for the Union last year. This guy is honestly the closest thing I’ve seen to an American Pirlo, with all the good and bad that entails — he’s just an amazing passer of the ball. He’s also pretty unathletic.

Djordje Mihailovic is maybe an offensive minded option for the central midfield, or maybe a pinched-in winger — we'll see. He just made a move from Montreal to AZ Alkmaar and we'll see where he goes.

Malik Tillman is another guy like Mihailovic where it's unclear if he'd slot in as a CM option or a winger option. Maybe a new system will create a better role for players like this. He didn't make the WC squad, but he was reasonably close. He's very young and needs more consistency, but at least he's getting minutes on loan at Celtic. I think he'll need to move on from Bayern to advance in his career.

Taylor Booth has been toiling for Bayern's reserves for a while, where it's hard to tell exactly how good he is. He's now at Utrecht where he had a rocky start but has played really well in the last few months. And he's yet another guy whose future may be in the middle or on the wing.

Cole Bassett’s move to PSV has been a failure and he’s now back with the Rapids, but he’s young enough to bounce back. He has a real nose for the goal, but he’s one of those guys who is a weirdly low-usage CM and if he can’t find the ball he’s not going to be impactful enough for the NT.

NAMES FOR LATER IN THE CYCLE:
Niko Tsakiris ’05 (San Jose Earthquakes)
Ben Cremaschi ’05 (Inter Miami)
Alejandro Alvarado '03 (Vizela)

WINGERS & ATTACKING MIDS

Pulisic
, Weah, Aaronson, and Reyna are as strong a quartet as we’ve ever had. Stay healthy, please, especially you, Gio. This is going to be a hard position to break in, because it’s one of the few where we have high level depth.

Jordan Morris may still have some use, but it’s easy to see him being phased out of the pool this cycle.

NEW BLOOD / WORLD CUP OUTSIDERS:

Could Paul Arriola get more caps? Sure, he might be part of the pool for a while, if there are injuries.

Paxten Aaronson, who is Brenden’s little brother, just got a transfer to Eintracht Frankfurt who are high on him. He never had time to make much of an impact in MLS, so I wouldn’t expect instant success in Germany. We also don't really know what his best position will be in the long term.

Konrad de la Fuente got a cap in an early WCQ, but has significantly fallen out of the picture. His Barcelona pedigree earned him a move to Marseille, but it didn't work out and he was loaned to Olympiakos, which also hasn't been successful. There some to be some questions around his training habits, which bodes poorly, but he's still young.

NAMES FOR LATER IN THE CYCLE:
Cade Cowell ’03 (San Jose Earthquakes)
Brian Gutierrez ’03 (Chicago Fire)
Diego Luna ’03 (Real Salt Lake)
Caden Clark ’03 (RB Leipzig)
Quinn Sullivan ’04 (Philadelphia Union)
Serge Ngoma ’05 (New York Red Bulls)
Esmir Bajraktarevic ’05 (New England Revolution)

FORWARD

So many decent options, so few elite options. The floor at forward for the USMNT is pretty good right now. But what the team really needs is someone who will raise the ceiling of the team.

It could still be Josh Sargent, who is finally in a good club situation and unsurprisingly is now having success. Jesus Ferreira was poor in his 45 minutes in the World Cup. People forget how young he still is, so don’t write him off. My fear for him is that he’s tailor-made to be a second striker in a 4-4-2 system and that he’s arrived in the soccer world a couple decades too late. Haji Wright is the hot hand; I’ve never rated him super highly.

NEW BLOOD / WORLD CUP OUTSIDERS:

Jordan Pefok started the season on a blinder, wildly outperforming his xG, and now he’s fallen back to earth. He’s not a very well-rounded forward, but he’s good at what he’s good at. He could still be a situational forward. Ricardo Pepi has been scoring consistently in the Eredivisie and is still very young. I have hopes for him. Brandon Vazquez was very good in MLS last year and should get a look if he keeps it up in 2023. Matthew Hoppe hasn’t scored a club goal in 1.5 years. He scored some goals for a desperate Schalke team including, famously, a hat trick, but after all this time we’re still trying to figure out if he’s actually any good at all. Daryl Dike is just returning to health now. He provides an insane physical presence up top, but he’ll need to improve his ability on the ball if he wants to have a serious impact for the NT beyond being a role player at best.

NAMES FOR LATER IN THE CYCLE:

We could use more straight-up center forwards. Our current U20 team is really good, but used Paxten Aaronson as a forward because the AM pool was so much stronger than the FW pool.
 
Last edited:

rguilmar

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Jul 16, 2005
856
Fantastic write up TB. One addition to the MF list, unless I missed him, is Alejandro Alvarado. He’s 19 and already getting minutes in Portugal. I thought he really stood out for the U-20s more than anyone else outside of the younger Aaronson and possibly Diego Luna (Luna for his moments of brilliance as opposed to Alvarado’s consistency).
 

InstaFace

The Ultimate One
SoSH Member
Sep 27, 2016
17,342
Pittsburgh, PA


Quite an epic thread-starter. I imagine you'll be doing less carrying of the thread this cycle than you have done the last few - seems we've had a few people go from casuals to real fans over the last cycle, myself included.

First off, in the first section above, your second-to-last paragraph was unfinished. I'll edit once you do.

OK, so, the most obvious solution to the need for a high-level tournament is to recap the Copa America Centenario from 2016 and do another joint N+S Americas championship that qualifies 6 CONCACAF teams. Whether we do it in the US for money or in south america to get fewer complaints from our latin american friends is immaterial - it'll be a major tournament in the summer, and I'm sure we'll get releases.

The matter of the olympics is an interesting one, because here's the U23-eligible squad (born on/after 1/1/2001):

WC Roster-ers:
CM Yunus Musah
AM Gio Reyna
RB Joe Scally

Peripheral senior-team-ers:
GK Gaga Slonina
LB George Bello
LB Jonathan Gomez
AM Malik Tillman
DM Johnny Cardoso
CM Gianluca Busio
ST Ricardo Pepi
LW Konrad de la Fuente

Top prospects:
CB/RB Justin Che
CB Kobi Henry
RB Bryan Reynolds
LW Kevin Paredes
RW Cade Cowell

Other U-20 Team Regulars:
CB Brandan Craig
RB Mauricio Cuevas
AM Paxten Aaronson
AM Diego Luna

...there may be others, including a number that were named in the positional breakdown above, but that's a pretty solid foundation for an Olympic squad. Particularly with most of them playing in a better-than-MLS league already or expected to do so soon.

And I can scarcely believe TB has done a youth-heavy USMNT preview without mentioning our forthcoming U-20 World Cup appearance, next May-June. Our U-20 squad is, to use the technical term, a fucking wagon. They have their deficiencies, particularly at DM and striker, but the latter of those might be solvable with enough calls to Ricardo Pepi's coaches. It was the 2019 U-20 World Cup that sold one Sergiño Dest on the program, with him becoming best friends with guys like Tim Weah.

And finally, as long as I'm adding some addenda to TB's cycle preview, I should mention a few names that I think he glossed over:

CM Alexis Mendez: He didn't crack the Ajax squad, but after his transfer to Vizela in Portugal he has become a regular starter at age 22, occasionally looks real good, and if he'd done so a little earlier in last cycle, might've made a few camps and been in real consideration for the backup-CM position. As it stands, he's got great technique and field vision and some good press-resistance.

AM/RM Richie Ledezma: Once one of our top CM / winger hopes, he blew out his ACL two years ago, and only recently found his way back onto the field, but PSV remain very high on him, and if he can crack their first team, there are few better places to develop and showcase yourself.

LW Konrad de la Fuente: A technically proficient speed merchant who needs to learn more positioning and interplay with his teammates. He made it out of La Masia, but didn't make it onto the Barcelona first-team, and after a year at Marseille they loaned him out to Greece's perennial superclub, Olympiacos. Our AM/winger depth is tremendous, as TB notes, but you can't have too much of it. He first needs to see the field more consistently and deliver for Olympiacos: this season so far, he has 15% of starts, 13% of minutes, and 0% of goal involvements.

And probably several others besides, who will come as if out of nowhere. Should be fun!

How to be a USMNT fan:
Following an international team is very different than following a club team who you can watch week-in-week-out. You can keep tabs on how things are going for us, but we end up with 15-20 games per year instead of the 50-60 of a top club team, and knowing what's up with dozens of players in the senior-team player pool can feel overwhelming. Here are some tiers:

Casuals: Watch the World Cup, maybe a bit of the Olympics or WC Qualifying. Whenever the national sports media starts trumpeting the team, really.

Semi-Casuals: Will watch most competitive matches and some friendlies that we play; can probably name our starting XI and the clubs they play for without looking it up, but may not know much of how they're doing.

Fans: Keep tabs on our top players week-in-week-out by watching the club matches they play for, and tuning in when they're on the field. This means you get an appreciation for how Dortmund plays or how Juventus looks, without really forcing you to care whether those teams win or lose, as long as our guy looks good. You might listen to a podcast or two to help you stay on top of it, because it's just too much to watch more than a few games a weekend. You'll watch big USYNT matches when they come around, if convenient. Odds are high you're an American Outlaws member.

Semi-Sickos: Keep tabs on several dozen players in the pool on a week-to-week basis. You probably know where to go for player comp videos. You can comment intelligently on how different players in our pool fit with each other on the field, or who's in-form as an international break approaches. You probably know a bunch about the USA's history in the sport and key figures (not just Donovan / Dempsey). Odds are likely that you have strong opinions about kits.

Sickos: You check in on the youth scene regularly. You probably watch Barcelona's youth-academy videos to catch Adrian Gill. You know who's on the USYNTs - and who was just left off, and you have Opinions about this. The odds you post on BigSoccer begin to approach 100%. You might have tried your hand at piecing together highlight videos, you've certainly attended a few games.

(and there are several gradations of sicko beyond that, from which I am, thankfully, too far removed to give it an accurate characterization. But I am close enough to know that they're out there, people, and some of them are useful because they come bearing spreadsheets and conclusions from cutting-edge soccer analytics.)

Here's hoping this World Cup has made a few of you guys out there go from Casual to Semi-Casual-Curious.
 

Jimy Hendrix

Member
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Jun 15, 2002
5,265
On that scale, I probably went from semi-casual around Couva to somewhere between fan and semi-sicko this cycle.

Random unorganized thoughts follow, as befits 3am.

- I would love for one of our real passing CMs to develop into a full national team level player (or for any of MMA to more consistently add that club to their bag). 3 hard chargers can and does work as a top midfield (I’ve seen pre-Thiago Liverpool), but I think we saw some of the endurance issues with that setup in this World Cup. Midfield passing seems like one of the places we solve our creativity issues and also like a way for us to boss possession for a half and actually leave the other team more exhausted than we are like it’s supposed to work, which seemed not like how it was working this World Cup. McGlynn, Mendez and maybe Busio seem like the likeliest suspects to become this guy right now, and I’d love to see at least the first two start hitting camps sooner rather than latter.

- I’ll take anyone who bangs in goals for a few years at striker, but on pure aesthetics I am rooting for it to be Dike. He’s never likely to be Mr. Pass n’ Move or as much of an all-arounder as Sarge or Pepi, but on his heater at Barnsley I saw him do stuff I don’t see anyone else in our pool doing. I also love his goofball energy as a dude, would help keep team vibes impeccable.
 

Jimy Hendrix

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Jun 15, 2002
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Also, what are we looking at for January in the USMNT related transfer rumor mill?

Johnny to Serie A seems likely to happen. Strange to me given every time I’ve seen him for the national team, but gives credence to the “he’s pretty good in Brazil now” people.

McKennie seems like a “rumors every window always” guy now, whether than translates to anything, we shall see.

Pulisic seems even odds to hit that mega-club “failure” mode of loans to great or good clubs until they be of them sticks.

That’s all I can think off for the time being.
 

Jimy Hendrix

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Jun 15, 2002
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@Titans Bastard
Is Miles Robinson dead to you?
Main thing to see there is how he recovers from his injury. The worry is that it’s Aaron Long 2.0 and his physical gifts/form don’t come back at the level they were when he got himself into the team. Secondary concern is how his ball skills do or don’t keep developing over the next few years, in a perfect world we want CBs who can really help start the attack as well as defend.

He’s probably in the mix though.
 

Titans Bastard

has sunil gulati in his sights
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Dec 15, 2002
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Fantastic write up TB. One addition to the MF list, unless I missed him, is Alejandro Alvarado. He’s 19 and already getting minutes in Portugal. I thought he really stood out for the U-20s more than anyone else outside of the younger Aaronson and possibly Diego Luna (Luna for his moments of brilliance as opposed to Alvarado’s consistency).
This was an oversight too.

The nice reality is that unless you are extremely meticulous and have someone check your work, it's easier than ever to accidentally forget about a pretty good player or prospect when making these lists.

This was definitely not always the case.
 

DJnVa

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Dec 16, 2010
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Remember where you were then this thread was started...

To me, it's interesting, when we think about he pipeline or who and what we need--that first post laid it out--Adams was in MLS, 5 key guys had yet to get a cap, and on and on. This could be a fun 4 years.
 

67YAZ

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- I would love for one of our real passing CMs to develop into a full national team level player (or for any of MMA to more consistently add that club to their bag). 3 hard chargers can and does work as a top midfield (I’ve seen pre-Thiago Liverpool), but I think we saw some of the endurance issues with that setup in this World Cup. Midfield passing seems like one of the places we solve our creativity issues and also like a way for us to boss possession for a half and actually leave the other team more exhausted than we are like it’s supposed to work, which seemed not like how it was working this World Cup. McGlynn, Mendez and maybe Busio seem like the likeliest suspects to become this guy right now, and I’d love to see at least the first two start hitting camps sooner rather than latter.
I obviously love Brian Gutierrez (BGuti to the Fire faithful) - his skill, technique, creativity, & vision are all elite. See his sick flick to Duran below. This year he became the Fire’s attacking fulcrum at age 18/19 with fantastic range of passing and imagination.

What will govern his ceiling is his athletic development. Right now, he’s a classic 10 with a free play making role and little defensive duties (which made him tricky to pair with Shaqiri this year). When BGuti came up at age 16, he was riding his outrageous skills, but was a stick figure physically and didn’t even look like he’d ever shaved before. He has started to fill out with muscle, but lacks the physicality and speed to play the 8 or the wing.

He’s a hardworking kid, so I’m confident he’ll max out his god-given gifts. The big question is, will he hit a new level of athleticism? I really hope so for his sake & the USMNT - having a creative force that can also run the middle as an 8 would be fantastic. But he may well end up a career 10 in MLS being shoehorned into lineups that don’t usually play with a 10 because BGuti makes magic happen.

 
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InstaFace

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Also, what are we looking at for January in the USMNT related transfer rumor mill?

Johnny to Serie A seems likely to happen. Strange to me given every time I’ve seen him for the national team, but gives credence to the “he’s pretty good in Brazil now” people.

McKennie seems like a “rumors every window always” guy now, whether than translates to anything, we shall see.

Pulisic seems even odds to hit that mega-club “failure” mode of loans to great or good clubs until they be of them sticks.

That’s all I can think off for the time being.
My hopes include, not in priority order:
  • Tim Weah needs to get the hell out of Lille to a place that will play him at winger every week - or let him train to be the striker that he was probably born to be.
  • Pulisic to another UCL Big 5 club that will value and play him. He has now shown beyond a doubt that he's under-utilized at Chelsea. I have long been a "let him stick it out and fight through it" guy, but I think the time has come for him to go somewhere and play 60-90' per week.
  • Musah has a lot of interest brewing, but he's developing fine at Valencia and they're a club with ambition so as long as they value him I think it's fine if he stays, at least through the end of the year. Dude is young. At some point the EPL will come along with a godfather offer, and there's no need to rush it.
  • Busio still has senior-team potential and frankly looked good in Serie A last season, but if Venezia aren't leaving Serie B anytime soon, he needs to move.
  • Brandan Craig can't move until his birthday in April, but should be doing some trials and "come train for a week" spells in Europe this offseason.*
  • I personally don't want to see Tyler Adams or Brenden Aaronson move from Leeds, I think they have a fantastic setup there and frankly Marsch doesn't have another rabbit to pull out of his hat to get enormously undervalued assets like those. Definitely finish the year, and possibly stay another year with upgraded salaries and release clauses. If the biggest of big boys back up the brinks truck in summer 2024, so be it.
  • Auston Trusty is, as TB notes, a top CB prospect for us, with his career finally on track. I want him to finish the season for Birmingham, but they are a tire fire of an organization so I'd love for him to go somewhere better and more-stable after that.
  • Matt Turner loan to somewhere he can start every week wouldn't be the worst thing, if (A) Arsenal truly sees him as their #2 that can compete with Ramsdale for starts going forward, and (B) now that they're out of Europa, they can have a lesser backup on the squad to let him get minutes somewhere else for the rest of the season.
  • McKennie will be rumored-about every window that he's on Juventus, because he's on Juventus and isn't Italian, and that's fine. I think he loves his life and his club and his teammates love him, so there's really no reason to go anywhere.

Oh, and while we're sitting around naming athletes and just having the best time, some more Guys We Should Name:

- DM Moses Nyeman (just moved to Belgium, apparently!)
- GK Josh Cohen, at Maccabi Haifa, got to play UCL Group Stage against Juventus and co. He deserves a move out of there.
- CB Matt Miazga may not be trustworthy at a USMNT level, but he's not so far from the picture that he doesn't deserve a mention. He's had his memorable moments for USA, both good and bad.
- Total Footballer Owen Otasowie seems like the kind of guy that TB, being a sicko, would mention. It's unclear whether he actually wants to be a professional footballer, but if he does, he has the athleticism to be a great one.
- CB Josh Wynder is 17 and playing at Louisville City in the USL. He could pull a Jonathan Gomez and show out and then get an easier move abroad, because the acquiring club won't have to really shell out for him the way they would to an MLS club.
- CM Tanner Tessmann is another of the Venezia guys who needs to get out of there. I don't dream on his upside as much as I do on Busio's, but he's tall and athletic and not a total giraffe with his footwork, so if you squint you can see some McKennie-like qualities in him.
- DM Amir Richardson has turned some heads at Le Havre in Ligue 2, he's the son of a former NBA player and was a French YNTer.
- Winger Alex Mighten was kept by Nottingham Forest after their promotion but then loaned out to Sheffield Wednesday in League One. He's 20, and if Forest goes down again might find himself a regular in the Championship at 21.
- Winger Luca Koleosho just graduated from Espanyol's academy in La Liga at age 18. He played for the USA U-15s in 2019 but declared for Canada, though he hasn't seen the field for them.
- ST Folarin Balogun is a dual-national apparently balling out at Reims in Ligue 1. Someone in the gamethreads really really likes him. He'll be in the mix this cycle, given that Arsenal was really loathe to let him go and he's only 21.

* I remember someone here, probably TB, talking about how guys like Cole Bassett and Paxton Pomykal were just uninteresting to most European clubs, because technical midfielders are a dime-a-dozen over there, whereas athletic freaks like a McKennie or Adams are things they don't have much of, and are quite willing to believe that the USA can produce for them. Craig is an athletic freak.
 

rguilmar

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@InstaFace last I heard about Owen Otasowie is that he played a few preseason games with mixed results and appeared to be wanting to play soccer again, but since then has been banished from the first team at Brugge. Pretty sure he’s playing sporadically for their second team in the second tier in Belgium. He’s still only 21 but seems more interested in modeling than playing soccer, so I’m not sure how much faith to put in him.
 

Titans Bastard

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@InstaFace last I heard about Owen Otasowie is that he played a few preseason games with mixed results and appeared to be wanting to play soccer again, but since then has been banished from the first team at Brugge. Pretty sure he’s playing sporadically for their second team in the second tier in Belgium. He’s still only 21 but seems more interested in modeling than playing soccer, so I’m not sure how much faith to put in him.
I would place exactly zero faith in Otasowie. There are a lot of names that people have subsequently rattled off in this thread that I either forgot or just didn't cast a wide enough net to include. But Otasowie has so many red flags that I think it's much more likely that he'll be out of the game in 2026 than anywhere near the USMNT picture.

There were indeed a few positive reports in preseason. He started one game for the first team, and then four games for the reserve team in September. However, Club Brugge recently announced that they've stopped paying him due to breach of contract because they literally just don't know where he is — he peaced out and hasn't shown up.

Here's what a Club Brugge supporter posted on BigSoccer:

No one at the Club currently knows where he is. Hasn't showed up at the training center in weeks. Some believe he isn't even in the country any more but has flown back to the U.S.
There might be consequences for the first time, including the club stopping the payment of his wages.
He has gotten opportunities with the first team. He played poorly each time. He then had huge attitude problems when made to play with Club NXT. A lot of his problems are self-inflicted.

I also don't see what transfer fee has to do with performances. We paid 16 million for Yaremchuk (which might turn into 19 million with add-ons) and he has barely featured too, due to attitude issues.

Meanwhile our best performing new transfer is probably Sylla and he cost just 200K. Once you get at the club it's all about what you do in training and during games.

And an article in the Belgian press confirms the story:

https://www.nieuwsblad.be/cnt/dmf20221109_93075970
 

Titans Bastard

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  • McKennie will be rumored-about every window that he's on Juventus, because he's on Juventus and isn't Italian, and that's fine. I think he loves his life and his club and his teammates love him, so there's really no reason to go anywhere.
There is one reason to go somewhere: last week, Juventus' entire board resigned and there's some sort of financial scandal emerging. If the club implodes Calciopoli-style again, McKennie should exit stage left.

Oh, and while we're sitting around naming athletes and just having the best time, some more Guys We Should Name:

- DM Moses Nyeman (just moved to Belgium, apparently!)
- GK Josh Cohen, at Maccabi Haifa, got to play UCL Group Stage against Juventus and co. He deserves a move out of there.
- CB Matt Miazga may not be trustworthy at a USMNT level, but he's not so far from the picture that he doesn't deserve a mention. He's had his memorable moments for USA, both good and bad.
- Total Footballer Owen Otasowie seems like the kind of guy that TB, being a sicko, would mention. It's unclear whether he actually wants to be a professional footballer, but if he does, he has the athleticism to be a great one.
- CB Josh Wynder is 17 and playing at Louisville City in the USL. He could pull a Jonathan Gomez and show out and then get an easier move abroad, because the acquiring club won't have to really shell out for him the way they would to an MLS club.
- CM Tanner Tessmann is another of the Venezia guys who needs to get out of there. I don't dream on his upside as much as I do on Busio's, but he's tall and athletic and not a total giraffe with his footwork, so if you squint you can see some McKennie-like qualities in him.
- DM Amir Richardson has turned some heads at Le Havre in Ligue 2, he's the son of a former NBA player and was a French YNTer.
- Winger Alex Mighten was kept by Nottingham Forest after their promotion but then loaned out to Sheffield Wednesday in League One. He's 20, and if Forest goes down again might find himself a regular in the Championship at 21.
- Winger Luca Koleosho just graduated from Espanyol's academy in La Liga at age 18. He played for the USA U-15s in 2019 but declared for Canada, though he hasn't seen the field for them.
- ST Folarin Balogun is a dual-national apparently balling out at Reims in Ligue 1. Someone in the gamethreads really really likes him. He'll be in the mix this cycle, given that Arsenal was really loathe to let him go and he's only 21.

* I remember someone here, probably TB, talking about how guys like Cole Bassett and Paxton Pomykal were just uninteresting to most European clubs, because technical midfielders are a dime-a-dozen over there, whereas athletic freaks like a McKennie or Adams are things they don't have much of, and are quite willing to believe that the USA can produce for them. Craig is an athletic freak.
There are so many Guys We Should Name. There will be squad members at the 2026 World Cup who aren't being named right now because four years is a hell of a long time in soccer. And the next four years should be a good ride.
 

speedracer

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anybody have opinions on Scally at LB? I don't watch Bundesliga much, but I know he's started there for Gladbach, and from what little I've seen he could potentially form a stronger offensive combo with Pulisic on the left than Jedi has done.
 

Titans Bastard

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anybody have opinions on Scally at LB? I don't watch Bundesliga much, but I know he's started there for Gladbach, and from what little I've seen he could potentially form a stronger offensive combo with Pulisic on the left than Jedi has done.
This year he has exclusively played right back, which is his natural position. He can cover the position, but he only has a half dozen games of experience there. I'm not sure whether he'll be more than an emergency band-aid solution for backup LB. That being said, if Jedi gets hurt we might just need an emergency band-aid solution.
 

Cellar-Door

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The coaching search is going to be fascinating.

The first question will be... do they require a US tie. If so, well that guts a lot of the most interesting options out.
I'll assume they don't and go from there. I assume there will be MLS coaches on the list, I don't know them well enough generally outside the ones who were already USMNT managers (Arena, Bradley), so I'll leave them off.

I assume the hire doesn't happen until the Spring (maybe even Summer). I'm think these will be some candidates, who are either currently unemployed, on expiring contracts, or are in leagues that aren't prestige I'm not going to include anyone who is both youngish (under 65) and in a good league (so no Jesse Marsch).

I think all of the below are in the range of managers we'd likely have a decent shot of getting if we wanted, a few might be reaches, but not ridiculous ones.

Marcelo Gallardo: Leaving River Plate this month, planning to take a short break before his next job. (rumoured to be an El Tri target).
Joachim Low: Left Germany a year ago, recently said he's recharged and ready to return to the game.
Ralph Hasenhuttl: Sacked by Southampton
Pellegrino Matarazzo: Fired by Stuttgart
Marcelo Bielsa: Fired by Leeds, considered by USSF before (also a noted crazy person).
Abel Ferreira: only employed coach on this list, he's done very well at Palmieres (reported to be shortlisted for the Brazil job).
Ricardo Gareca: former Peru manager (rumored shorlist for El Tri)
 

Joe D Reid

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THE SCHEDULE

FIFA hasn’t made it officially official I suppose, but the 2026 WC co-hosts won’t have to qualify for the tournament, which changes the tenor of the cycle and creates a significant hole to fill.

Here are the USMNT’s general commitments:

2023 Nations League final
2023 Gold Cup
2024 Olympics (U23, and we’ve actually qualified this time)
2025 Nations League final
2025 Gold Cup

We have our usual CONCACAF stuff, minus the highest-stakes tournament (WCQ), without much else with which to replace it. One big problem with the rise of UEFA Nations League is that Euro NTs now have fewer friendly dates so it becomes harder to schedule interesting opponents.

Many fans would like to see the US get an invitation to the 2024 Copa America. The appeal is obvious, but there are a few complications. First, guest teams at continental championships do not get automatic releases, so it is unknown how strong a team we could field. Second, the Olympics are in the same summer and the program would have to decide how to allocate U23 players between the two tournaments. We’ll see what happens on this front.
Do teams get automatic releases for the Olympics, either? My recollection is that they did not used to, although that might have changed.

Anyway, that just further underscores the challenge of scheduling meaningful matches. If the Olympics are auto-release, I sort of like the idea of just loading for bear and trying to medal. If not, then it is time for a goodwill bag tour of CONMEBOL to get a merged CONCACAF/Copa approved for '24. I can't think of a better use of the '26 WC money, because apart from the possibility of new players entering the pool and existing players leveling up, the core of this team is young enough that they can play enough matches together to get a real competitive advantage just through increased familiarity. Most international teams get blown up and reassembled every cycle (or don't get blown up and end up regressing through aging). This team's core can stay together and improve at the same time. Maximizing that advantage through tournament play should be among the highest priorities for this cycle.
 

Titans Bastard

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Do teams get automatic releases for the Olympics, either? My recollection is that they did not used to, although that might have changed.

Anyway, that just further underscores the challenge of scheduling meaningful matches. If the Olympics are auto-release, I sort of like the idea of just loading for bear and trying to medal. If not, then it is time for a goodwill bag tour of CONMEBOL to get a merged CONCACAF/Copa approved for '24. I can't think of a better use of the '26 WC money, because apart from the possibility of new players entering the pool and existing players leveling up, the core of this team is young enough that they can play enough matches together to get a real competitive advantage just through increased familiarity. Most international teams get blown up and reassembled every cycle (or don't get blown up and end up regressing through aging). This team's core can stay together and improve at the same time. Maximizing that advantage through tournament play should be among the highest priorities for this cycle.
Nope, there are no automatic releases for any youth national team tournaments. Lots of work ahead for the USSF to find competitive games.
 

DJnVa

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Nope, there are no automatic releases for any youth national team tournaments. Lots of work ahead for the USSF to find competitive games.
No idea if it would help, but it could be a place where a coach with international experience has contacts that could help the US get these games.
 

InstaFace

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Watching the matches today, one thought keeps coming to mind: South Korea and Japan would be good peer teams for us to play in a competitive atmosphere more often, and they'll be up for it too. As will Australia, although I think we're a class above them now.

We should either put together an 8-team tournament in the USA that includes those two plus some south american teams and maybe whatever mid-level UEFA teams could commit, or a 4- or 6-team round-robin tournament in Japan and South Korea that brings in 1-3 other teams that are at our level.

Can't be that hard to do that for summer 2023 or 2025, across from the Gold Cup, and send a B-team to the Gold Cup the way we did in 2021.
 

Jimy Hendrix

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Call it the Trans-Pacific Cup, play it in the left coast cities that we don't give enough games because the USSF is scared of how many Mexicans live there.
 

Jimy Hendrix

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One minor thing I wonder given the management search (assuming GGG Mark II isn't the answer) is who if anyone runs the January camp?

I can see two directions that make sense to me.

1. If there's no existing coaching staff for MLS bubble guys to get looked at by and no specific playing style to familiarize them with, scrap Camp Cupcake.

2. A more extreme version of the 2021 split, where there are some MLS bubble guys who at least Stewart and McBride want to get a sense of and then the bulk of it is the U20s (most of whom are domestic and available) prepping for their World Cup. Mikey Vargas probably runs the camp in this version.

As I said above, it's a minor thing, there's basically no wrong answer except for the answers including the words "Jason" and "Kreis".

EDIT: I suppose there's the third direction of "US Soccer decisively makes its hire within the next 5 weeks", but I don't see it, do you?
 

Titans Bastard

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One minor thing I wonder given the management search (assuming GGG Mark II isn't the answer) is who if anyone runs the January camp?

I can see two directions that make sense to me.

1. If there's no existing coaching staff for MLS bubble guys to get looked at by and no specific playing style to familiarize them with, scrap Camp Cupcake.

2. A more extreme version of the 2021 split, where there are some MLS bubble guys who at least Stewart and McBride want to get a sense of and then the bulk of it is the U20s (most of whom are domestic and available) prepping for their World Cup. Mikey Vargas probably runs the camp in this version.

As I said above, it's a minor thing, there's basically no wrong answer except for the answers including the words "Jason" and "Kreis".

EDIT: I suppose there's the third direction of "US Soccer decisively makes its hire within the next 5 weeks", but I don't see it, do you?
In November, the USSF announced friendlies against Serbia and Colombia, so I would expect there to be a fairly typical January camp, maybe with a bias toward a few U23s given the upcoming Olympics and the fact that so much of our depth chart is in Europe. I've heard that there will be a separate U-20 camp, so Mikey Varas (not Vargas!) will presumably not be available for this one.
 

Jimy Hendrix

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Dammit, I know he's Varas (and love what he's doing with the U20s), I got auto-correct screwed with that one.
 

InstaFace

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There *are* a few players you want to look at in January. Particularly Brandon Vazquez, but probably a few other MLSers who you haven't seen much of yet as all the focus was on World Cup prep. But you could throw those handful into what is essentially a U-20 camp and let them show the kids what's-what (which would be good for both sides), and still evaluate those couple MLSers for senior-team roles down the road, since they're nevertheless playing against actual professionals.

Who else do we even want to see, who aren't busy doing their jobs in europe, and besides the MLSers on the WC roster? Glancing at a cheat sheet, I come up with:

- CB Henry Kessler (NE Revolution)
- CB Justen Glad (Salt Lake)
- CB Matt Miazga (Cincinnati) - yeah we kinda know what we have, but he's not so bad that we need to kick him out of the pool, either
- LB John Tolkin (NYRB)
- LB DeJuan Jones (NE Revolution)
- RB Brooks Lennon (Atlanta)
- RB Kyle Duncan (NYRB)
- RB Tayvon Gray (NYCFC)
- DM Leon Flach (Philadelphia)
- DM Keaton Parks (NYCFC)
- DM Aidan Morris (Columbus)
- DM/CM Chris Durkin (DC)
- CM Hassani Dotson (Minnesota)
- CM Marky Delgado (LA Galaxy)
- CM Brandon Servania (Dallas)
- AM Paxton Pomykal (Dallas)
- LW/AM Caden Clark (NYRB)
- CF Brandon Vazquez (Cincinnati)
- CF Nico Gioacchini (Orlando)

...plus all the U20 guys like Diego Luna, Jack McGlynn, Brandan Craig, Brian Gutierrez, Chris Brady etc. Maybe a few from the U19 / U17 teams that went to those tournaments. And probably some surprise names that USSF has been looking at and thinks might be under-appreciated.

But yeah, those are the guys young enough to plausibly play a role in our 2026 cycle and/or attract the eye of better-than-MLS leagues, and who have impressed at least some Scuffed sickos in their quarterly player-pool ratings.
 

Titans Bastard

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There *are* a few players you want to look at in January. Particularly Brandon Vazquez, but probably a few other MLSers who you haven't seen much of yet as all the focus was on World Cup prep. But you could throw those handful into what is essentially a U-20 camp and let them show the kids what's-what (which would be good for both sides), and still evaluate those couple MLSers for senior-team roles down the road, since they're nevertheless playing against actual professionals.

Who else do we even want to see, who aren't busy doing their jobs in europe, and besides the MLSers on the WC roster? Glancing at a cheat sheet, I come up with:

- CB Henry Kessler (NE Revolution)
- CB Justen Glad (Salt Lake)
- CB Matt Miazga (Cincinnati) - yeah we kinda know what we have, but he's not so bad that we need to kick him out of the pool, either
- LB John Tolkin (NYRB)
- LB DeJuan Jones (NE Revolution)
- RB Brooks Lennon (Atlanta)
- RB Kyle Duncan (NYRB)
- RB Tayvon Gray (NYCFC)
- DM Leon Flach (Philadelphia)
- DM Keaton Parks (NYCFC)
- DM Aidan Morris (Columbus)
- DM/CM Chris Durkin (DC)
- CM Hassani Dotson (Minnesota)
- CM Marky Delgado (LA Galaxy)
- CM Brandon Servania (Dallas)
- AM Paxton Pomykal (Dallas)
- LW/AM Caden Clark (NYRB)
- CF Brandon Vazquez (Cincinnati)
- CF Nico Gioacchini (Orlando)

...plus all the U20 guys like Diego Luna, Jack McGlynn, Brandan Craig, Brian Gutierrez, Chris Brady etc. Maybe a few from the U19 / U17 teams that went to those tournaments. And probably some surprise names that USSF has been looking at and thinks might be under-appreciated.

But yeah, those are the guys young enough to plausibly play a role in our 2026 cycle and/or attract the eye of better-than-MLS leagues, and who have impressed at least some Scuffed sickos in their quarterly player-pool ratings.
I think this is a solid enough list. You're getting deep enough in the depth chart that anybody could reasonably quibble at the margins. I do think you'd see some of the MLS crew from the World Cup for continuity/culture reasons.

I don't think we'll see U20s, as I've heard there will be a separate camp for them.

A few more names for the list beyond WC roster guys:

GK Roman Celentano (Cincinnati)
GK J.T. Marcinkowski (San Jose)
RB Aaron Herrera (Salt Lake)
CM Eryk Williamson (Portland...at least for now)
AM Paul Arriola (Dallas)
CF Jeremy Ebobisse (San Jose)

It's hard to come up with a list of new faces from MLS at CB and AM in particular who have a realistic chance of working their way into the NT rotation (Pomykal is an 8 at this point). The best candidates will either be with the U20s or have already been sold abroad.

CB: already have Zimmerman and Robinson, while McKenzie and EPB moved abroad
AM: Mihailovic, Paredes, B. Aaronson have all been sold


EDIT: and to the bolded, 100%. There are ALWAYS weird/wonky choices that no one expects, regardless of manager/year/situation.
 

OCST

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I wonder if friendlies in upcoming non-tournament windows should be held in Europe, since the majority of the starting XI now plays there. Let the MLS guys travel.
 

Titans Bastard

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I wonder if friendlies in upcoming non-tournament windows should be held in Europe, since the majority of the starting XI now plays there. Let the MLS guys travel.
It depends on who we get. Good Euro friendly opponents are hard to come by in the Nations League era. It’s not uncommon for African and Asian countries to play neutral site friendlies in Europe but it’s a bit unsatisfying from a fan perspective.

Let’s get wild and play Senegal in Dakar or something.
 

67YAZ

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Let’s get wild and play Senegal in Dakar or something.
London to Dakar is about 8 hours - manageable & no different than the US east coast.

Senegal opened a brand new, 50K seat national stadium this past February. World class facility.

They could do fantastic squad building on a visit to Gorée Island and then have some great recovery time on the resort beaches.

Invite the Saudis & Algeria, get a sponsor, can call it the Sponsor Name Cup.

Got it all sorted. Perfect. Book your flights.
 
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InstaFace

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ESPN's Bill Connolly, a USMNT sicko with a byline, offers this preview of the pool for the next cycle:

https://www.espn.com/soccer/fifa-world-cup/story/4826538/usmnt-squad-way-too-early-look-ahead-of-2026-world-cup

Names I hadn't heard of, or seen mentioned here (parenthetical ages are in 2026):

CB Grayson Dettoni (20). He's already 6-foot-4 and has been in the Bayern Munich pipeline for a while. What else do you need to know?

FB Christian McFarlane (19). New York City FC signed the England-born, New York-raised McFarlane to a first-team contract when he was 14, making him the youngest player in MLS history to sign such a contract. Potential: off the charts.

CM Reed Baker-Whiting (21 in 2026). The Guardian named the 17-year-old part of its Next Generation 2022 crop in September. He dominated the MLS' Generation Adidas Cup, and in 305 minutes with the Seattle Sounders, he has created five chances and attempted six shots worth 1.4 xG. Of all the teenagers we're discussing, Baker-Whiting might be the most likely player to force his way into the US manager's plans. Or he might not. Who knows? We're talking about 17-year-olds here.

DM Obed Vargas (20). Another 17-year-old Sounder, Vargas has already logged more than 1,300 minutes in MLS and the CONCACAF Champions League. He has major potential in a pivot midfield role, and he has proven that he can both pass the ball and draw contact at high levels.

(I've heard of both of them, but hadn't heard them seriously discussed as a USMNT-level prospect for next cycle)

AM Esmir Bajraktarevic (21). Already dominant in MLS Next Pro, the 17-year-old from Wisconsin made a trio of appearances for the New England Revolution in 2022. He could end up in midfield or even center forward, but his crossing ability makes him particularly dangerous on both wings.

CF Ezekiel Soto (19). It speaks to the lack of depth up front that I'm putting a 15-year-old in the No. 3 spot, but Soto is unique and active. In 480 minutes over two stints in the MLS Generation Adidas Cup, the Houston Dynamo prospect recorded seven shots worth 1.1 xG and created four chances for teammates. He appears solid in the pressing department, and the ball jumps off of his foot when struck.

He also mentions some other really young prospects, like Axel Perez and Adrian Gill, who are still in youth academies (albeit very promising). Hard to project someone to go from that to USMNT senior consideration, given our pool today, but here's hoping he's right.
 

Titans Bastard

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Ezekiel Soto is the only name on that list I've never heard of at all. It would be nice to have the Houston Dynamo academy cranking. That's a huge market that in theory should be producing a lot of talent, but for whatever reason way more talent comes out of Dallas. It's just FC Dallas academy vs. Houston Dynamo, it's what comes out of non-MLS youth soccer too.

Other guys are at least names I've seen tossed about.

You can tell the CF pipeline is a bit weak compared to the others. The first name, Malick Sanogo, is a guy who I think is overrated based on his foreign academy pedigree. He hasn't made much of an impression with our U-20 team, which is desperate for a forward (since Pepi has been with the full NT). And Cade Cowell may well be more of a winger than a forward.

The bottom line is that we have a lot of irons in the fire. Next year's U20 World Cup should be a lot of fun, and I'm ready for another season of player breakouts.
 

67YAZ

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View: https://twitter.com/JeffreyCarlisle/status/1600495206943670275?t=QdjTMw79eM0lNVf33ghhgQ&s=19


Berhalter looks like he'll be back, not unexpected but unfortunate. Probably significantly decreases the ceiling for 2026
Well, the headline on the ESPN site portage this a little differently: “USMNT boss Gregg Berhalter weighs up Europe move amid new contract talk - sources”

Second paragraph:

One source acknowledged it's still very early in the process, and other sources have indicated that there is an interest on Berhalter's part in exploring European club options.
 

Jimy Hendrix

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If you go above and beyond the call of internet duty and read the entire short article, that second headline seems closer to the actual meat of it while the first seems calibrated to make twitter people mad.

Seems like USSF is ready to go, but Berhalter wants to get the lay of the land for himself before committing.
 

67YAZ

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Good for Gregg to explore his options. Probably tricky, though - he definitely helped his profile with the USMNT’s performance, but are any of the Big 5 European league clubs looking to make a change now or soon seeing Gregg as a “save our seasons” type?

We’re in unchartered territory here with the winter WC, so maybe they’ll be more mid-season manager rotation between clubs and national teams than we expect…personally I suspect more national team jobs will stay open until June when some preferred candidates finish out club seasons.

Who knows. Gregg could probably have his pick of several MLS jobs right now, most of which would require the club the Fire a manager to land him.
 

Cellar-Door

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Well, the headline on the ESPN site portage this a little differently: “USMNT boss Gregg Berhalter weighs up Europe move amid new contract talk - sources”

Second paragraph:
He might leave true, my point was that USSF at his door to negotiate within days tells me a lot about the ambitions and priorities of the fed.
 

67YAZ

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He might leave true, my point was that USSF at his door to negotiate within days tells me a lot about the ambitions and priorities of the fed.
Charles Boehm confirms that USSF has tabled an offer already:

 

Jed Zeppelin

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Being utterly risk-and-change averse is always a great way for an organization to take steps forward.
 

speedracer

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Welp. Hopefully Berhalter realizes that he needs to continue to learn and grow and that the best way to do this is by exposing himself to the week-by-week feedback that high level club football offers?
 

Jimy Hendrix

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The optimistic case if he does come back is that 2022 Berhalter was making a lot more sense than 2019 Mad Scientist Berhalter, with his madcap cycling through overmatched passing 6s so he could play our excellent 6 as an inverted RB.

There's a pattern of him making better choices as the cycle goes on, hard to say how much of that is improvement on his part versus how much is based on the pool improving enough that levels on which he screws up rosters are more about marginal players and away from the starting 11. Either way, if he does stay then you hope that the pool improvement and Gregg improvement continue apace.
 

Senator Donut

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I used to be on the side of change for the sake of change. The history of US managers being retained after a World Cup is admittedly fraught, but times are changing. Bruce was the longest tenured manager at Germany 2006 having served eight full years. However in 2022, six of the eight quarterfinalists have managers with previous World Cup experience.

In my mind, I think there are two key reasons I keep coming back to for retaining Gregg. First is his recruitment of dual nationals, which not only improves the talent pool but also indicates a positive perception of the USMNT by outsiders. Second, is that I have not idea who to replace him with. International manager outside of a few prestige associations is just not a great gig. Some MLS flavor of the month doesn’t get me excited for 2026.