Who will we see take to the field on November 21 for United States’ opening match of the 2022 Qatar World Cup?
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Just as the U.S. Men’s National Team was becoming a World Cup mainstay, everything fell apart.
The U.S. failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup after making it to each of the events since 1990. But now, the Americans have a young, talented group looking to surprise in Qatar this month…and hopefully into December!
We take a look at some of those young stars and attempt to predict a starting XI for the squad.
USA World Cup Formation and Strategy
Most experts believe the U.S. will play a 4-3-3. This means four defenders at the back, with three midfielders and three forwards up front. The goalie is presumed, completing the 11-player starting lineup.
USA World Cup Starting Lineup: Goalie
Might as well get to the biggest question mark right away.
Matt Turner ran neck and neck with Zach Steffen for the position of starting goalkeeper through qualifying and warmup matches. But the decision was academic when Steffen missed out on making the final roster.
Turner is a goalkeeper at Arsenal but does not start regularly. The U.S. needs to hope this lack of recent playing time won’t be a factor in Qatar.
USA World Cup Starting Lineup: Defense
For the longest time, this quartet looked like the easiest decision for the team – Antonee Robinson and Sergino Dest respectively on the left and right, with Walker Zimmerman and Miles Robinson in the middle.
But when Miles Robinson tore his Achilles early in the MLS season, his center back position was thrown into confusion. Aaron Long of New York Red Bulls seems to be the favorite to get the first chance in this spot. But everyone agrees he’s been in poor form during both the MLS campaign and national team matches.
We’ll cover some of the alternatives later.
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USA World Cup Starting Lineup: Midfield
This is possibly the team’s most consistent unit. We start with Tyler Adams of Leeds United, having an excellent season for his club and able to focus on what he does best – break up offensive attacks, make simple plays and passes.
Next up is one of the most versatile players, Weston McKennie. He is arguably the player with the most excitement surrounding his World Cup debut. The 24-year-old plays for Juventus in Italy’s Serie A, and the club has used him in just about every possible midfield role. He’s been known, earlier in his career, to even make appearances as center back or full back when needed.
McKennie is at his best when able to focus on gaining control of possession on 50-50 balls and joining scoring attacks which the opposing defense may not consider.
When Yunus Musah missed September contests with Japan and Saudi Arabia, his spot was thought to be up for grabs. But, instead the opposite happened. The U.S.’ disjointed play allowed the club to see how much they missed the Valencia midfielder. Celebrating only his 20th birthday during the tournament, Musah is thought to be the U.S.’ best midfielder with possession.
USA Starting Lineup: Forwards
The consensus here is a pair of strong wings with a big question mark in the middle at striker.
One of the wings is Christian Pulisic. The unquestioned leader of the group and the single player whose performance is likely to dictate USMNT’s fate in Qatar. The other wing position may have the most enticing options of all, but most believe it’s a two-man race currently led by Tim Weah who also missed the recent September matches.
Starting at striker – almost by default – will be Jesus Ferreira of FC Dallas. Ferreira can be a nightmare for opposing defenses when he’s confident. He will be a key for the team, as the options behind him at striker are less appealing at the moment.
USA World Cup Reserves
Of course, depending on tactics, opponents, and position in the standings the club could opt to mix things up from this initial starting XI.
If they do, here are some more candidates to see time in Qatar:
We’ve covered the 1A and 1B situation at goalkeeper, so we’ll start on defense where many believe Cameron Carter-Vickers will contend for a starting role based on his play at Celtic in Scotland. Additionally, DeAndre Yedlin offers needed experience as the only American to have played in a World Cup previously (2014).
Contending with Yunus Musah for most exciting young player is Gio Reyna, the son of retired U.S. star Claudio Reyna. Reyna can challenge for time on the wing or in an attacking midfield role and, like Musah, doesn’t turn 20 years old until later this month.
The wing spot opposite Pulisic is one of the hotly contested battles for playing time, and aside from Reyna, Brenden Aaronson makes this group perhaps the deepest spot on the team. Aaronson is Tyler Adams’ teammate at Leeds, after a $30 million transfer last spring (the second-highest amount ever paid for a U.S. player behind Pulisic).
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2022 United States World Cup Summary
It’s clear that most of the excitement around the young talent on the U.S. team lies with the midfielders and forwards. When we say young, at age 24 Pulisic is the senior member of the group. This suggests we’ll see many of these same faces in 2026 when the U.S. hosts the World Cup for the second time in history.
But for now, it’s all eyes on Qatar, as the Americans kick off on November 21 against Wales!