June 24, 2022

There are still transfers to be completed, a pair of September friendlies and plenty of club form to persuade Gregg Berhalter, but a quartet of summer matches for the United States men’s national team means predicting the list of the USMNT for the 2022 World Cup comes with precious few conditionals.

Of course, there will be a few other injuries to consider and there will always be at least one surprise – Julian Green, anyone? – but Berhalter’s men played a host of matches in a variety of conditions before raising the caliber of the competition in November.

[ MORE: Three things we learned from El Salvador 1-1 USMNT ]

This is perhaps the biggest hurdle left for this coach, knowing which men who have navigated the mayhem and fury of CONCACAF can successfully navigate their way through England, Wales and the United States. Iran, then, of course, whoever is next in the knockout stages.

Some of that can be done through the same personnel and a good tactical plan, of course, but which centre-backs are best placed to deal with what happens next, should the team go past the group stage? Which of the club’s nascent centre-forwards will make the most of precious opportunities in Qatar.

Again, there will be injuries to consider and more nebulous questions like whether Premier League substitutes Zack Steffen and Matt Turner can quickly find their No.1 shirt form in a short window of preparation before the tournament, but we We’re in a period where discussing the way forward is as simple as it will be almost any time before the tournament proper: the 2022 World Cup.

Projected USMNT roster for the 2022 World Cup

There is one final variable to consider, and that is team size. Qatar could see a 23-man roster grow into a 26-man squad, so we’ll put asterisks next to the next three men (or last men).

And remember, these are the players we think Berhalter will choose for the World Cup, not necessarily the players we think make the best team. After all, he’s the expert on individual attitudes and collective group chemistry, as well as the man with the tactical plans and their associated ins and outs.

Guardians (3)

Locks: Matt Turner, Zack Steffen

Likely: Sean Johnson

Wildcards: Ethan Horvath, Gaga Slonina

Horvath (currently) misses out because he doesn’t play regularly, although a move could happen before the Nottingham Forest man starts the 2022-23 Premier League season. Slonina might normally be included in order to familiarize the teenager with testing at a World Cup, but Berhalter will and probably should bring Johnson from NYCFC due to his familiarity, experience and regular playing time.

Matt Turner. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Defenders (8*)

Locks: Walker Zimmerman, Antonee Robinson, Sergino Dest, Chris Richards, Aaron Long

Likely: DeAndre Yedlin, Reggie Cannon

Last man at: Cameron Carter Vickers*

Wildcards: John Brooks, Joe Scally, George Bello, Erik Palmer-Brown, Shaq Moore, Mark McKenzie, Tim Ream

This one is borderline impossible. Berhalter’s failure to recall John Brooks following Miles Robinson’s Achilles injury means one (or more) of three things; Brooks is either a net negative in the locker room or Berhalter doesn’t see him as a starter but doesn’t need to see him anymore to include him in the squad. Long isn’t as multi-dimensional as several other CBs in the pool, but Berhalter clearly likes him for his system. Like Turner, he falls short of the bill in some technical areas, but slips absolutely seamlessly into the spirits camp.

We’ll digress from the latter and say that the last spot, assuming eight, goes to Cameron Carter-Vickers of Celtic and Joe Scally of Borussia Mönchengladbach. The latter’s versatility could work for him – see section on midfielders – but Carter-Vickers’ form at Celtic listed him as a possible Scottish Premiership Player of the Year and it looks like Berhalter will add a fourth defender central. However, it could also bode well for Tim Ream, who has been used by the NT as a left-back in the past.

USMNT
Walker Zimmerman (right) with Christian Pulisic (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

Midfielders (9*)

Locks: Tyler Adams, Yunus Musah, Weston McKennie, Brendan Aaronson, Luca de la Torre, Kellyn Acosta

Likely: Cristian Roldan, Gianluca Busio

Last man at: James Sands*

Wildcards: Malik Tillman, Djordje Mihailovic, Sebastian Lletget, Paxton Pomykal

No player has climbed higher on the priority list this summer than Musah, who is still raw but shows he only improves when used consistently in the middle. Although it’s unlikely to happen in Valencia, the warm-up series for Qatar will be enough for the bright and fast ball player.

Acosta earned their place in qualifying and De la Torre over the past month, while Roldan and Busio have seemingly produced resumes beyond exclusion.

There are big questions, starting with whether Malik Tillman’s move to the USA jersey from Germany came with plans for Qatar and beyond…or just beyond.

The versatility and age of Sands (CB or CM), Scally (WB or W) and Aaronson (CM or F) gives Berhalter so many options if he wants to bring another “luxury player” with them.

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Yunus Musah (Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Forwards (6*)

Locks: Christian Pulisic, Timothy Weah, Giovanni Reyna

Likely: Paul Arriola, Jesus Ferreira

Last man at: Jordan Morris*

Generic cards: Haji Wright, Jordan Pefok, Ricardo Pepi

There’s no certainty beyond Pulisic and Weah, although Reyna is a lock assuming health (which is a bit audacious at this point). FC Dallas duo Arriola and Ferreira look likely for the plan due to the use of Berhalter and Morris take the lead over Pefok and Pepi if they continue their way to the top after returning from surgery from the ACL. After all, he’s been used by Berhalter in almost every game since he got on the pitch. If that were to give him every chance of failing, then shame on us for not having seen it, but his late goal in El Salvador will live on in many memories. However, if Wright gets a permanent move away from Sonderjyske, as expected, he’s likely to fight his way above anyone listed as “likely” or below. The same goes for Pefok and Pepi, to a lesser extent.

USMNT
Christian Pulisic (Photo by MARVIN RECINOS/AFP) (Photo by MARVIN RECINOS/AFP via Getty Images)

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