As the leaves change from Summer to Fall, the 2022 World Cup is right around the corner. Yes, this seems weird that the June/July soccer event is now happening in November/December, but that’s where we’re at with Qatar as the host this year. Because of the heat and the odd in-season timing of the tournament, FIFA is now allowing 26 players on each team’s roster as opposed to the traditional 23. U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) manager Gregg Berhalter says his roster is “about 85% settled” in early September. With that in mind, let’s make some predictions as to who the 22 locked-in USMNT players are and who the last four will be.
Matt Turner (Arsenal)
Zack Steffen (Middlesbrough)
Luton Town keeper Ethan Horvath has been the USMNT’s third keeper for most of the build-up to the 2022 World Cup. The other options are NYCFC’s Sean Johnson and Chicago Fire’s (on loan from Chelsea) Gabriel “Gaga” Slonina.
The experience play is Johnson. The future-looking play is Slonina. But, honestly, the best option for form right now (or in November) is probably Horvath. The argument here against Horvath (and even Steffen, for that matter) is that the EFL Championship isn’t as good as MLS anymore, so looking for a third keeper on the domestic side might be a better option.
If Berhalter and his coaching staff come to that conclusion, look for the 18-year-old USMNT keeper of the future, Gaga Slonina, to make the team.
Sergino Dest (Barcelona)
Antonee Robinson (Fulham)
DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami)
Joe Scally (Borussia Mönchengladbach)
Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC)
Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls)
Chris Richards (Crystal Palace)
Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic)
This is the USMNT positional group that Gregg Berhalter will likely rotate the most (especially at center-back), so nine defenders on the 26-man roster isn’t overkill. Dest, Robinson, and Zimmerman are locks on the roster and as starters, but it gets dicey after that.
As far as full-backs go, Yedlin is a lock, and Scally is probably the fourth. More because there aren’t any great alternatives than anything else.
In the center, Richards, Long, and Carter-Vickers are all probably on the team, although Long’s health is always a question mark.
For the ninth and final spot, a center-back is probably in order with all the uncertainty at the position. Troyes’ Erik Palmer-Brown is in the mix, but the choice will likely be Rangers’ James Sands. The Scottish Premier League CB can also play midfield, and that type of versatility gives him the nod over Palmer-Brown.
Weston McKennie (Juventus)
Yunus Musah (Valencia)
Tyler Adams (Leeds United)
Kellyn Acosta (LAFC)
Luca De La Torre (Celta Vigo)
The five midfielders on this list all seem like complete locks. Maybe one can make an argument about De La Torre, but as the pitbull of the group, he should be on the team regardless of form come November.
The sixth spot here could go to Seattle Sounders’ Christian Roldan. The problem is that he (just like his MLS team) has been maddeningly inconsistent this season. If Djordje Mihailovic can get healthy, he could be a nice fit with the five MFs above. He was great for CF Montreal before he got hurt and could add some playmaking and scoring punch from the attacking midfield spot.
One more option is Malik Tillman from Bayern Munich on loan at Rangers. He’s only 20 and will likely figure into the 2026 World Cup picture, but it might be too soon. Also, his flexibility is on the wing, and the USMNT is already set there.
The safe pick is Roldan, but let’s hope Berhalter goes a little outside the box and picks Mihailovic for the World Cup 2022 USMNT roster.
Christian Pulisic (Chelsea)
Tim Weah (Lille)
Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas)
Paul Arriola (FC Dallas)
Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund)
Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United)
Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders)
The USMNT forwards have the most competition for the final spots, but a lot of that is because there aren’t many great options. MLS’s Jordan Morris and Paul Arriola should figure into Berhater’s 85% that he’s already decided on. After that, the choices are copious but uninspiring.
The final forward spot will come down to names like Ricardo Pepi (FC Groningen), Jordan Pefok (Union Berlin), Haji Wright (Antalyaspor), Brandon Vasques (FC Cincinnati), and Josh Sargent (Norwich City).
Pepi seems like Berhalter’s choice, but this is a position where the manager should wait until the last minute and see who has the hottest hand (or foot, in this case). If Pefok, Wright, or Vasques is on a tear in their leagues, the USMNT should take them to Qatar.