#Projecting #USMNT #World #Cup #roster
The 2022 FIFA World Cup came and went, and after all the excitement and anticipation about how the U.S. men’s national team would fare, a solid Round of 16 run has given USMNT fans some reason to feel good about the future of the program.
It has also left many wondering just how the next USMNT World Cup roster will look like, especially considering how many young players were on the most recent squad. As things stand we don’t know who the coach will be — Gregg Berhalter has not had his contract renewed as of yet — but it is a safe bet that no matter who is in charge in 2026 they will be taking a team with a good number of 2022 alumni.
Projecting the 2026 squad will be a simpler process than it was four years ago to project the 2022 team. Back then the USMNT program was in a complete rebuild, and there was a generation of top talent still a year away from fully emerging. There were also players who still hadn’t been anywhere near the radar, like Yunus Musah and Joe Scally, two of the youngest players in the 2022 squad.
There will be plenty of desire to project super-young prospects onto the 2022 team, but the reality is it is going to be much tougher for a new wave of youngsters to swoop in and make up a large part of the 2026 team. There are likely to be one or two, but the competition for places on the next World Cup roster will be much tougher and filled with players reaching their primes with plenty of top European experience under their belts.
That is why you aren’t going to see a ton of totally new faces or super-young prospects on this projection. We will name-check some, but the final 23 is made up almost exclusively of players who have already been part of the USMNT program.
There are sure to be players who emerge in the next three and a half years who seem far away from the World Cup, including potential dual-nationals who either have yet to choose the United States, or who have yet to emerge as viable options.
There is also always the potential for some older options to emerge and surprise, like Tim Ream, though for the sake of this roster projection exercise we are staying away from players who will be 30 and older when the 2026 World Cup kicks off.
With all that in mind, here is a projected 23-man roster we could see represent the United States at the 2026 World Cup:
Matt Turner, Zack Steffen, Gabriel Slonina
Matt Turner’s rapid rise over the past few years is a good reminder that you can always expect surprises to emerge from the player pool, but it won’t be a surprise to see Turner keep his place on the team. He’ll need to find steady playing time eventually though.
Zack Steffen’s omission from the 2022 World Cup squad was one of the controversies of the cycle, but consider a good opportunity for a redemption story. Steffen is too talented not to play his way back into the picture, though his injury issues are a cause for concern.
Gabriel Slonina is widely-regarded as the future of the position, and though he’s only 18, he is a top-tier talent. He will need consistent playing time over the next few years to really continue developing, but there’s no reason to doubt his ability to continue improving.
Missed the Cut – Ethan Horvath, J.T. Marcinkowski
On The Radar – Chituru Odunze, Chris Brady
Sergiño Dest, Joe Scally, Chris Richards, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Miles Robinson, Auston Trusty, Antonee Robinson, Kevin Paredes
Both Chris Richards and Miles Robinson would have stood good chances of being on the 2022 World Cup team if they had been healthy, and their talent and upside makes them easy picks here. Richards is the safer bet just in terms of potential, but if Robinson can enjoy a smooth recovery from his torn Achilles, and secure a move to Europe, he’ll be back in the picture to challenge for a starting centerback role.
Sergino Dest and Antonee Robinson were the 2022 starting fullbacks and should both stay in the picture, though the competition for the starting spots should be strong. Kevin Paredes is the new face in this collection of fullbacks. The young Wolfsburg left back is a dynamic left-footed option who could emerge as the next top American talent at the position.
Missed The Cut – Sam Vines, George Bello, James Sands, Bryan Reynolds, Justin Che, John Tolkin,
On the Radar – Nathan Harriel, DeJuan Jones, Sam Rogers, Tayvon Gray, Jaylin Lindsey, Caleb Wiley, Kayden Pierre, Grayson Dettoni, Kobi Henry, Brandan Craig, Jonathan Gomez,
Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, Yunus Musah, Brenden Aaronson, Johnny Cardoso, Richie Ledezma, Malik Tillman
The competition will be fierce for midfield roles in the next cycle, what with such a strong quartet leading the way and so many promising youngsters ready to make their own pushes for a spot.
Richie Ledezma is a player who has been hit hard by injuries, but he has the talent to emerge as a top-tier midfield ace. Malik Tillman is another dynamic option who could develop either as a central midfielder or winger.
The depth in defensive midfield remains a concern, but Johnny Cardoso has the qualities to emerge as Tyler Adams’ top understudy in the role.
Missed The Cut – Taylor Booth, Gianluca Busio, Alex Mendez, Paxten Aaronson, Luca De La Torre, Djordje Mihailovic, Christian Cappis, Leon Flach
On the Radar – Cole Bassett, Jack McGlynn, Ben Bender, Frankie Amaya, Aidan Morris, , Bryang Kayo, Eryk Williamson, Danny Leyva, Josh Atencio, Andres Perea, Obed Vargas, Cruz Medina, Jackson Hopkins, Esmir Bajraktarevic, Diego Luna, Quinn Sullivan, Daniel Edelman, Reed Baker-Whiting, Adrian Gill, Dante Polvara
Christian Pulisic, Tim Weah, Gio Reyna, Ricardo Pepi, Josh Sargent
Ricardo Pepi is another 2022 snub we see bouncing back and playing his way back into the picture. He and Sargent are the top candidates to step up from what is actually a promising crop of forwards.
The winger pool is one to watch, with several intriguing young prospects in the pipeline and there being a lack of depth beyond the big three of Pulisic, Weah and Reyna heading toward 2026. Of course, both Brenden Aaronson and Malik Tillman are on this roster as midfielders, but can man the wings too.
Missed The Cut – Haji Wright, Daryl Dike, Jesus Ferreira, Konrad De La Fuente, Matthew Hoppe, Cade Cowell
On the Radar – Brandon Vasquez, Ulysses Llanez, Owen Wolff, Emmanuel Sabbi, Caden Clark
What do you think of this roster projection? Who is on the squad that you are happy to see included? Who is the one player you would add to the team that isn’t among our 23? Who isn’t listed on any of the above lists that you feel absolutely should be mentioned? (We will be adjusting the list to include any players we may have accidentally left off).
Share your thoughts below.