It has been a long four years for the U.S. men’s national team, but finally — finally — graduation day is here.
On Nov. 21, these young American students (of the game) will walk across the biggest stage (in sports). They’ll leave behind their classrooms and confront the harsh realities of the real world (of international soccer).
Those weak performances in the September friendlies? Nothing more than some senioritis, perhaps. Because now, with everyone watching, these graduates are ready — ready to make an impact, ready to make themselves heard, ready to shine.
Here, then, is your team: The USMNT Class of 2022, grouped, of course, according to their “majors.”
These are the “money” players for the U.S., the ones responsible for delivering currency (that is, goals). A World Cup isn’t about long-term investments, either. In a four-week tournament, these are the players whom the U.S. need to go on a heater.
Club: Chelsea (England) | Position: Forward
Debut: Mar. 29, 2016 vs. Guatemala
Appearances: 52 (21 goals)
Look for him to … Create goal-scoring chances and attack from the edge of the field (he prefers it to be from the left). Pulisic has struggled to find regular minutes with Chelsea under two different managers this season, but he remains the American linchpin.
Notable or Quotable: “[It’s] a team that no one loves to play against — it’s that American spirit, that we can always win. That we can beat anyone.” — On the identity of this USMNT
USMNT captain Christian Pulisic believes his team can “beat anyone” as the 2022 FIFA World Cup fast approaches.
Club: Juventus (Italy) | Position: Midfielder
Debut: Nov. 14, 2017 vs. Portugal
Appearances: 37 (nine goals)
Look for him to … Perpetually be around the ball, pushing it forward into dangerous areas, as well as offer a stout presence in the defensive midfield. McKennie’s work rate makes him a game-breaker for the U.S., the player most capable — if he’s on — of disrupting the opposition.
Notable or Quotable: Frequently celebrates goals by waving an imaginary wand, in homage to Harry Potter. (For the record, McKennie says he would be a Gryffindor.)
Club: Lille (France) | Position: Forward
Debut: March 27, 2018 vs. Paraguay
Appearances: 25 (three goals)
Look for him to … Show speed on the outside, frequently from the right, and deliver penetrating crosses. Weah, who missed seven games of the club season with an ankle injury, also likes to get on the ball and interchange with the wide defender on his side of the field.
Notable or Quotable: “My dad is in the history books so I just have that fire in me all the time.” — On his father, George Weah, who is the president of Liberia and one of the greatest African players in soccer history
Club: FC Dallas (USA) | Position: Forward
Debut: Feb. 1, 2020 vs. Costa Rica
Appearances: 15 (seven goals)
Look for him to … Score, likely by using his speed (Second Spectrum data showed he was the second-fastest player in MLS in 2022). Ferreira isn’t the prototypical No. 9, but he scored 18 goals for Dallas this season and has a unique skill set among U.S. striker candidates.
Notable or Quotable: “Cheetah — cheetah is my favorite animal of all time.” — On what kind of animal he’d like to be if he wasn’t a human (Ferreira wants to become a zoologist after retiring).
Sam Borden and Jesus Ferreira take a detour from talking about soccer to discuss the USMNT forward’s love of animals.
Club: Norwich City (England) | Position: Forward
Debut: May 28, 2018 vs. Bolivia
Appearances: 20 (five goals)
Look for him to … Provide versatility, as he can play both as a central striker and in the wider role he is often used in at Norwich. Sargent can be streaky — six of his eight goals this season came in a six-game stretch from mid-August to mid-September.
Notable or Quotable: “There will be hundreds of comments saying how great you are, how amazing you are. And that one comment that says you’re the worst player will stay in your head all night.” — On why he’s one of the few USMNT players who stay off social media entirely
Club: Antalyaspor (Turkey) | Position: Forward
Debut: June 1, 2022 vs. Morocco
Appearances: 3 (one goal)
Look for him to … Be a total X factor offensively, as he hasn’t featured much with the USMNT but is their most dangerous No. 9. After scoring 14 goals last season, he has already scored 9 in 12 matches this year.
Notable or Quotable: Wright comes from an athletic family; one of his cousins is Joseph Addai, the former NFL running back who won a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts in 2007.
Safety. Stability. Reliability. These are the guys charged with protecting U.S. assets. Gregg Berhalter needs them to keep things under control in the most fraught moments, and especially when being threatened by a rogue striker.
Club: Arsenal (England) | Position: Goalkeeper
Debut: Jan. 31, 2021 vs. Trinidad & Tobago
Look for him to … Start in goal for the U.S. after the surprise omission of Zack Steffen. A relative latecomer to the sport, Turner’s shot-stopping ability is top-shelf, but he does struggle to offer as much as other keepers when it comes to playing with the ball at his feet.
Notable or Quotable: “I decided to join soccer just to meet some new people and sort of integrate myself and stay in shape for basketball and baseball.” — On why, at age 16, he decided to play on the soccer team at his new high school
Club: Nashville SC (USA) | Position: Defender)
Debut: Feb. 3, 2017 vs. Jamaica
Appearances: 33 (three goals)
Look for him to … Stabilize the backline, with the rare trip forward on a set piece or corner. Unlike the many young phenoms on the team, Zimmerman is a bit of an international late bloomer, but he has become a defensive mainstay under Berhalter.
Notable or Quotable: “I think it comes with a lot of responsibility. You’re expected to kind of do the right thing, say the right thing. I took a lot of pride in that, and I think it helped develop me as a person.” — On growing up with a father who was the pastor of a Baptist church
Club: New York Red Bulls (USA) | Position: Defender
Debut: Oct. 16, 2018 vs. Costa Rica
Appearances: 29 (three goals)
Look for him to … Be safe and sturdy in defense, generally taking a conservative approach to marking. Like Zimmerman, Long is a veteran who has been overlooked (and sidelined by various injuries) for much of his career but now seems to finally have found his chance.
Notable or Quotable: “I think I led the league in interceptions that year — we went to the state finals, too.” — On moonlighting as a cornerback and kicker on the high school football team his senior year
Club: Celtic (Scotland) | Position: Defender
Debut: Nov. 14, 2017 vs. Portugal
Look for him to … Be assertive in duels and use improved passing skills to push for playing time at center-back. CCV is a quiet leader, too — when Callum McGregor got injured, Celtic turned to Carter-Vickers to stand in as their team captain.
Notable or Quotable: Was loaned by Tottenham to seven different teams over five years — Sheffield United, Ipswich, Swansea, Stoke, Luton, Bournemouth and Celtic — before finally signing a new permanent deal with Celtic in June
Club: Fulham (England) | Position: Defender
Debut: Nov. 17, 2010 vs. South Africa
Appearances: 46 (one goal)
Look for him to … Defend fiercely and intelligently (which offsets a lack of speed). Ream isn’t necessarily a perfect fit in Berhalter’s preferred high-line system, but he’s thriving at Fulham, and a slew of injuries to other U.S. defenders pushed him back onto the radar.
Notable or Quotable: Ream has lived through a series of emotional swings with Fulham: Over the past five years, he has been part of two relegations and three promotions.
Club: Luton Town (England) | Position: Goalkeeper
Debut: Oct. 7, 2016 vs. Cuba
Look for him to … Compete for time as the backup to Matt Turner. With Steffen not selected, Horvath — who has been in excellent form for Luton and is particularly skilled at long-range ball distribution — will battle Sean Johnson for the No. 2 spot.
Notable or Quotable: Despite having only 8 caps, Horvath has already had a historic USMNT moment: in June 2021, he replaced an injured Steffen in the second half and made four critical saves, including a dramatic penalty save, as the U.S. beat Mexico 3-2 to win the Nations League final.
Club: New York City FC (USA) | Position: Goalkeeper
Debut: Jan. 22, 2011 vs. Chile
Look for him to … Provide a reliable pair of hands if the U.S. get into an emergency goalkeeper situation. Third keepers are (by definition) rusty whenever they’re called on, but it’s especially true for Johnson: Playing in MLS means his last game action came on Oct. 23.
Notable or Quotable: “I think I got my first cap when some of these guys were 10 or even younger.” — On what it’s like to be an older player on a young team
What does the foundation of the U.S. team look like? It’s these players, the ones who build the American infrastructure, the ones who create the framework for the team’s success. They’re thoughtful and purposeful, dedicated to the system that could (should?) take the U.S. into the knockout rounds.
Club: Leeds United (England) | Position: Midfielder
Debut: Nov. 14, 2017 vs. Portugal
Appearances: 32 (one goal)
Look for him to … Be the engine for the U.S., with wide defensive field coverage and a steady sense for moving the ball. Adams embodies the “gritty midfielder” label, but he also shows the occasional flair for a colorful interchange with the wingers.
Notable or Quotable: “I do some of the dirty work that not everyone wants to do.” — On what distinguishes him as a midfielder
Club: AC Milan (Italy) | Position: Defender
Debut: Sept. 6, 2019 vs. Mexico
Appearances: 19 (two goals)
Look for him to … Wear out the right wing, making penetrating runs to link the U.S. defense and attack. Dest, who has battled injuries and muscle soreness, remains indispensable to the U.S. even as he has struggled to get the regular playing time he wants at Milan.
Notable or Quotable: “Orange chicken and fried rice — I always get that at Panda Express. The sweet chicken is just perfect.” — On his favorite meal when he’s in the United States
Club: LAFC (USA) | Position: Midfielder
Debut: Jan. 31, 2016 vs. Iceland
Appearances: 53 (two goals)
Look for him to … Be a steady hand off the bench in the midfield, particularly when it comes to set-piece delivery. Berhalter has talked often about the importance of intangibles with a young team, and Acosta is the embodiment of the idea.
Notable or Quotable: “I thought my national-team career was done. And it was a sad feeling because I experienced a lot but I felt like I still had a lot to give.” — On going more than two years between call-ups before getting another opportunity in 2020
Club: Seattle Sounders (USA) | Position: Midfielder
Debut: July 12, 2017 vs. Martinique
Look for him to … Read the game as well as any player on the field, allowing him to be serviceable off the bench in a variety of roles, either in midfield or on the wing. Throughout qualifying, Berhalter raved often about Roldan’s tactical awareness and energy.
Notable or Quotable: Roldan had a choice when it came to which country he would represent internationally. While he chose the U.S., his younger brother, Alex, plays for the El Salvador national team.
Club: Fulham (England) | Position: Defender
Debut: May 28, 2018 vs. Bolivia
Appearances: 29 (two goals)
Look for him to … Push forward (a lot) on the left, helping to create chances as well as attacking at the back post when the ball comes from the opposite side. Robinson is also a robust defender. Over the past year, he’s been statistically top-level in blocks, clearances and aerials won.
Notable or Quotable: Often goes by the name Jedi, which he has been called since he was young because of his love for the Star Wars movies.
Club: Inter Miami (USA) | Position: Defender
Debut: Feb. 1, 2014, vs. South Korea
Look for him to … Add versatility off the bench either as an attacking wing-back or in a more defensive role. Yedlin is the only player who has previously been on a U.S. World Cup roster: He played in three games during the 2014 tournament in Brazil.
Notable or Quotable: “We were just too complacent in the last game, too complacent going into it. So every game I play in, I try to just be in the moment. Because if you get too far ahead of yourself, things that are happening in the present will pass by you. And all of a sudden, you have like the situation what happened to us in 2018.” — On the crushing feeling of failing to qualify for the World Cup four years ago
Club: Borussia Monchengladbach (Germany) | Position: Defender
Debut: June 1, 2021 vs. Morocco
Look for him to … Offer insurance at full-back as a player who is stout in defense and likes to push forward, while also serving as an option at center-back. If he sees an opening in the attacking third, too, be ready: Scally has shown a penchant for shooting from distance.
Notable or Quotable: “I feel like the Europeans always think they’re better in all these ways just because they’re from Europe. So that’s definitely one perception I’ve taken when I came over here: that they think we’re just like NFL players running with the ball.” — On how he feels European players see American players
Club: Seattle Sounders (USA) | Position: Forward
Debut: Nov. 8, 2014, vs. Republic of Ireland
Appearances: 49 (11 goals)
Look for him to … Give the starters on the wing a break and offer needed energy late in a game. Even at 27, Morris is still a speedster and can finish when given the chance: He scored seven goals for Seattle this season.
Notable or Quotable: The tattoo on his right forearm is of the caduceus, a medical symbol, with the characters T1D above it; it’s there to let medics know, in case of an emergency, that Morris has Type 1 diabetes.
Inventive. Whimsical. Innovative. These are the creatives, the maestros for the U.S. They’re the ones charged with unlocking the Americans’ flair, the ones who will use their talents to showcase the beauty that lies within the U.S. team.
Club: Borussia Dortmund (Germany) | Position: Midfielder
Debut: Nov. 12, 2020, vs. Wales
Appearances: 14 (four goals)
Look for him to … Run with the ball at his feet, creating space and opening lanes for his teammates. Injuries have been regrettably constant for Reyna, but if he can stay healthy for the whole tournament, he figures to be a legit candidate for the team’s most valuable player.
Notable or Quotable: Reyna’s father, Claudio, was a USMNT legend, and his mother also represented the U.S. Danielle Egan, as she was known then, made six appearances (and scored one goal) for the USWNT in 1993.
Sam Borden chats with USMNT midfielder Gio Reyna about dealing with his mental health and his injury struggles.
Club: Valencia (Spain) | Position: Midfielder
Debut: Nov. 12, 2020, vs. Wales
Look for him to … Be assertive, both on the ball and defensively, as a critical piece of the McKennie-Adams-Musah midfield trio. Musah is one of the team’s most complete players: In LaLiga, he’s statistically strong among midfielders in everything from assists and dribbles to tackles and clearances.
Notable or Quotable: “I feel like we want to be on the field and express ourselves, and when you’re on the field and trying to express yourself, I think the best version of yourself comes out.” — On what he likes about the USMNT’s philosophy
Club: Leeds United (England) | Position: Forward
Debut: Feb. 1, 2020, vs. Costa Rica
Appearances: 24 (six goals)
Look for him to … Never stop running, whether on the wing or centrally (and he may be used in both spots). Aaronson, whose energy has made him a quick fan favorite at Leeds, finds ways to open up the opponent: He’s in the 94th percentile among midfielders when it comes to delivering key passes.
Notable or Quotable: “The way I would describe myself is just energetic — I like to get after it, I’m relentless. Anybody I’ve ever talked to says I’m like a little pest.” — On how he tries to impact a game
Luca de la Torre
Club: Celta Vigo (Spain) | Position: Midfielder
Debut: June 2, 2018, vs. Republic of Ireland
Look for him to … Make good decisions, utilizing excellent field awareness, when used as a rotational starter or substitute, though inactivity could be a concern. De la Torre hasn’t played more than 20 minutes in a game for Celta Vigo this season.
Notable or Quotable: “I think I have a skill set where I try to put players around me in better positions. So, I think I can make other players better.” — On his role with the USMNT
Club: Nashville SC | Position: Defender
Debut: June 2, 2018 vs. Republic of Ireland
Appearances: 15 (one goal)
Look for him to … Be an option off the bench at outside back, where he’s a very strong tackler and aggressive in creating chances. After bouncing around Spanish clubs since 2015, he joined Nashville this summer for the late-season MLS playoff push.
Notable or Quotable: Moore has just a single international goal, but it’s a memorable one: In the 2021 Gold Cup, Moore scored after just 14 seconds against Canada, setting the record for the fastest goal in USMNT history.
(With Inputs from ESPN)
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