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The USMNT roster for the world’s biggest soccer tournament, the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, came out on Wednesday, November 9. Fulham center-back Tim Ream was one of the most surprising inclusions on the team. Head coach Gregg Berhalter chose the 35-year-old from St. Louis over several younger defenders. After he did, he relayed a conversation to the media that Ream had with legendary Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach told Ream that if it weren’t for his age, he’d have his eye on the American.

Pep Guardiola gave USMNT CB Tim Ream the Highest Compliment

After playing in college at Saint Louis, MLS’s New York Red Bulls took Tim Ream in the second round of the 2010 MLS SuperDraft. The central defender played two seasons stateside before moving to Bolton Wanderers in England for €3.10 million.  

In 2015, Ream transferred again. This time he moved to Fulham, with Pakistani-American owner Shad Khan paying €1.70 million for the 6-foot-1 Midwesterner.

Since then, Ream has been a stalwart at Craven Cottage, appearing in 270 matches in all competitions for his English side and logging 23,063 minutes. As Fulham has moved up to the Premier League from the EFL Championship — first in 2018, then from 2022 to now — Ream has worked his way up the ranks to become the team captain.

In the 2022-23 Premier League campaign, Ream has been better than ever, tangling with some of the best forwards in the world and holding them in check. This is part of the reason the Cottagers are ninth in the EPL table, with the 2022 World Cup break looming.

After a recent game vs. second-place Manchester City, Pep Guardiola was so impressed with Ream’s play he told him he had what it would have taken to play for the Spanish icon.

USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter recently shared (h/t USA Today) on an ESPN podcast, “Tim Ream just played against Man City, and after the game, Guardiola walks up to him and says, ‘If you were 24 instead of 34, you’d be playing for me.'”

Berhalter also shared that Ream had a quick-witted quip in response.

“So, Tim said, ‘It’s too bad I’m not 34. I’m 35.'”

The surprise inclusion of the Fulham CB on the 2022 World Cup roster

Tim Ream USMNT 2022 World Cup Pep Guardiola
(L-R) Tim Ream (with Erling Haaland) and Pep Guardiola | Photos by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images

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Tim Ream making the World Cup USMNT squad is one of the biggest surprises for the U.S. leading into the tournament. It is also one of the best decisions Gregg Berhalter made.

Ream made his USMNT debut under Bob Bradley over a decade ago (November 17, 2010) and has 46 caps for the national team. However, the defender hasn’t been in the squad under Berhalter since a World Cup qualifying match against Honduras on September 9, 2021, and hasn’t stepped on the pitch since a game vs. El Salvador six days earlier.

The U.S. is going with a youth movement in this World Cup as well. The USMNT roster will be one of the youngest in the entire World Cup, and the final 26-man roster only includes seven players over 27 and three over 30.

However, no center-back has stepped up and grabbed the job next to Walker Zimmerman in the run-up to Qatar. One of the most promising youngsters auditioning, Crystal Palace CB Chris Richards, will miss the tournament with a leg injury.

And with Richards out, Ream is not the only USMNT CB who’s battled world-class forwards on a regular basis this season. The American CB has already faced several World Cup-bound forwards thus far, like Brazil’s Gabriel Jesus and England’s Harry Kane and Phil Foden.

Don’t be surprised if this experience gets Ream the starting nod in the USMNT’s first match in the World Cup on November 24 vs. Wales.