2026 Looks Bright For the USMNT
Updated: Dec 5, 2022
At the end of 2017, I was livid. The USMNT crashed out of World Cup qualifying by losing to lowly Trinidad and Tobago. The Americans didn't even make the trip to Russia, a place where the hosts made it to the Quarterfinals.
But I didn't wait for the 2018 World Cup to slam the USMNT, I wrote on Beacon of Speech IMMEDIATELY:
"Sorry Bruce Arena, you're fired.
United States Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati, you're fired.
Everyone 30 and over on the National Team, you're done, you'll be 35+ by Qatar.
That means hard decisions for the Starters in the US v Trinidad and Tobago debacle.
Tim Howard: Off to the broadcast booth.
Matt Besler: Goodbye, thanks for your time.
Omar Gonzalez: Be glad you don't live in Columbia.
Micheal Bradley: One of my favorite players of all time. You're done.
Jorge Villafana: Eh...we'll see.
DeAndre Yedlin: Get ready for Qatar
Christian Pulisec: Hopefully this loss will put a fire in your belly for 2022.
Darlington Nagbe: You will be part of the next wave.
Paul Arrilola: You too.
Bobby Wood: If he stays in Europe, he has to play every week in Europe.
Jozy Altidore: Hmmm. Evaluate later.
Clint Dempsey: Superlatives can't capture Dempsey's greatness. You need a parade in his honor. A parade right into retirement."
Now I'm just a passionate fan, but the muckety-mucks for the National Team had to have seen the same things as I did. The national team needed to get hungrier and younger. In turn, the 2022 version of the USMNT was the second youngest at the World Cup.
What happened to that 2018 team that I wrote off?
Bruce Arena: He WAS fired and then became the winningest coach of all time in MLS. That should be his legacy.
Matt Besler: Retired from MLS in 2021. Not chosen for National Team past 2017.
Omar Gonzalez: Still kicking around MLS. Not chosen for National Team past 2019.
Michael Bradley: Led his Toronto club team to the MLS Cup championship in 2017. Not chosen for National Team past 2019.
Jorge Villafana: Bounced around MLS. Not chosen for National Team past 2018.
DeAndre Yedlin: He was back and played in the 3-1 loss to the Netherlands. I was happy when he subbed in. DeAndre Yeldin....
Let's take a step backward here for a minute. Like it or not, America's philosophy since 2018 is bringing in guys who are Americans, but play in Europe. DeAndre Yedlin was the first player signed under MLS's Homegrown Player Rule to play in a World Cup, yet Yedlin immediately went to Europe afterward. Yedlin returned to MLS this year and is a good player, but when the 2026 World Cup comes Yedlin will be in his mid-30's. When you assemble that team, you should keep a spot for Yedlin, but strictly as a veteran presence. Every US World Cup Team should have 2 players between 32-40. The third string goalie and a veteran Cup bench player who only gets in if 3 defenders blow out their knees. That player in 4 years should be Yedlin.
Moving forward, the pool of American Soccer players should be deep enough where veterans complain that the USMNT is like Logan's Run.
Christian Pulisec: Pulisec did everything he needed to do, his team just ran into the Netherlands buzzsaw. 2026 should be his swan song at home. The team that he led to Qatar will be in their prime in 4 years.
Darlington Nagbe: Not chosen for National Team past 2018. He's done internationally, but could play 3-5 more years in MLS.
Paul Arrilola: Still on the USMNT, but omitted from Qatar. He has many years in front of him in MLS, but his international career may be over.
Bobby Wood: Not chosen for National Team past 2018. I read that the United States is a great striker away from going deep into World Cup 2026. Bobby Wood is NOT that striker.
Jozy Altidore: Not chosen for National Team past 2019. I love Altidore, but he got real old, real fast. I wish him well in his next career.
Clint Dempsey: Retired almost immediately after 2018's World Cup. I saw him on Fox's Coverage of the 2022 World Cup. Right where he belongs.
Listen, the United States is ranked 16th in the world. The Pulisec-led Americans made it into the Final 16 in Qatar. They made it exactly as far as they should have, no shorter, no farther.
Moving forward, I only have a few notes about the roster that started against the Netherlands when it comes to 2026.
Coaches don't get enough credit when they do something right. Greg Berhalter dropped goalkeeper Zack Steffen and went with Matt Turner. Turner played great and cemented his place as one of the top 2 goalkeepers for 2026. For the next 4 years, Turner and Ethan Horvath should be your focus at GK, with literally any old MLS keeper filling in the third spot.
Sergiño Dest: I didn't like Dest's game against the Netherlands and I don't like dual-nationals in general. Other are high on Dest, not me. We'll see what happens when 2026 comes around.
Walker Zimmerman: I am luke-warm on Zimmerman. Unclear if it's his defensive play or his man-bun. Same as Dest, I'm not sure I'm keen on him returning in 4 years. For Gold Cup, Zimmerman is fine.