The 2022 FIFA World Cup is only two months away, and football fans worldwide are gearing up for international football’s most prestigious tournament. Teams around the world are playing their final friendly matches as their coaches narrow down their squads to the 26 men who will head to Qatar with the weight of their nation’s expectations on their shoulders.
The usual suspects of Brazil, France, England, Argentina, and Spain are the current top five favourites to life the coveted Jules Rimet Trophy on December 18 at the Lusail Iconic Stadium. It is difficult to make a case against any of those five teams’ chances of 2022 World Cup glory, but one country jets off to Qatar knowing it is not expected to win yet will have a say in which team gets to call itself World Champions for the next four years.
Head coach Gregg Berhalter probably is not a name you are familiar with unless you a die-hard football fan. The 49-year-old is tasked with guiding the United States team as far as they can possibly go in Qatar. Those with good memories may recall that Berhalter turned out 19 times for Crystal Palace 19 times from 2001-2002; he also earned 44 caps for the USMNT. Berhalter has a deep pool of soccer talent, as they call it in the States, to choose from. American soccer fans from Ohio to California will tune into the various broadcasts to support their stars from afar.
USA takes on England, Iran, and Wales
The USA qualified for six consecutive World Cups between 1990-2014 but failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. They made amends this time, finishing fourth in their qualifying group to earn a place in Qatar. The draw put USA in Group B alongside England, Iran, and Wales. There are easier groups out there, yet there are certainly those considered far more difficult.
Berhalter’s men have played eight games since the start of the year, winning four, drawing two, and losing two. Victories against El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, and Morocco were expected, so it is difficult to judge the USA on those games alone. What you can do, however, is look at the players Behalter has at his disposal and see that the USA has the potential to cause a major upset at the 2022 World Cup.
USA’s team has a solid team that can cause their opponents all kinds of problems. Goalkeepers Zack Steffen and Matt Turner ply their trade in England, while defender Sergino Dest is on loan at AC Milan from FC Barcelona. Up-and-coming youngsters Sam Vines (Antwerp), Mark McKenzie (Genk), and Joe Scally (Borussia Monchengladbach) are all first-team regulars for their clubs.
An impressive forward line
It is midfield and the forward line where the USA starts shining. The midfield partnership of Weston McKennie of Juventus and Tyler Adams of Leeds United may not have the star-name quality of other national teams, but they are frighteningly effective. McKennie is a traditional box-to-box midfielder, while Adams’ performances for Leeds have made the loss of the Whites’ Kalvin Phillips to Manchester City easier to swallow.
Brendan Aaronson is another player playing in the Premier League. Leeds United made Aaronson their number one target in the summer, and the Yorkshire club paid Red Bull Salzburg £24.7 million to secure the 21-year-old’s services. His frame may be slight, yet Aaronson has all the attributes to be a brilliant number ten.
Then you have the vastly experienced Chelsea man Christian Pulisic, who has 21 goals in 51 international appearances, plus the Borussia Dortmund winger Giovanni Reyna, son of Claudio Reyna, who played more than 100 Premier League games and 112 times for the USA.
If, and it is an if, Berhalter can get his starting 11 firing on cylinders from the first whistle, the USA has every chance of progressing deep into the tournament.
One would expect the USA to finish second in Group B behind England, which would set up a Round of 16 clash against the winners of Group A, which is likely to be the Netherlands. Reach the quarter-finals stage, and anything can happen.
Will the USA win the 2022 World Cup? Probably not.
However, they are likely to gain many fans and cause some upsets along the way before they head back to the good ol’ US of A.