This was a fun read and pertinent to this conversation last week. Some thoughts/observations...I agree that I'm struggling to see how most of the starting 11 could be overtaken. That said, in 2018 we didn't see the current starting 11 coming with maybe 2 exceptions (CP for sure and maybe McKennie). A lot of talent could develop over the next 3 years that isn't even on our radar yet. I'm not just talking about possible dual nationals either. MLS home grown players are having bigger and bigger impacts and are getting noticed at a higher rate by top European clubs. It's not unrealistic to see a couple breakthroughs into the starting 11 from them over the next couple years.
I think center back is one of those spots. Tim Ream was a liability for most of his career until the last couple years. He's old and seems to have reverted to bad form if the last friendly is any indication. He's know for great passing and decision-making out of the back, but that was his biggest flaw on Saturday. His spot if definitely open for a younger replacement in 2026, IMO. I'm also still not sold on Balogun. No American striker in history can boast a season like he had at Reims last year in a top 5 European league, but he hasn't produced yet for the Nats. Pepi has outperformed him since his debut and I still have Pepi scars that need to heal.
I do worry about injuries to Gio, Adams, and CP, but I still think there are some spots to be claimed before 2026.
I read an article over the weekend (can't remember where) that assessed the USMNT's performance in last year's WC in the context of prospects for 2026. The writer surmised that teams need 16+ top-end talents to compete for a WC title and, in his estimation, the U.S. only had 12-13 in Qatar. So while the starting talent was there, the depth was lacking. He also made a compelling argument that the U.S. performed very well against the Dutch and the 3-1 score wasn't indicative of how close that game was.
Basically, he concluded the Nats need to shore up three areas to have a chance to make a run in 2026.
1) They've got to create more chances. They possessed well in Qatar even in the attacking third, but didn't generate enough chances from that possession. Most of that seems to be having no clear option for distributors to find with the ball in dangerous places.
2) They need to finish the chances when they get them. They need an elite striker who can making scoring goals easier for everyone else too.
3) They need 3-4 more top-end guys for depth in key places. The writer didn't say this, but I think those spots are striker (obviously), #6 behind Adams, one more center back, and one more central midfielder.
That's a pretty short list to develop in 3 years. Striker is the only one of those I worry about. What's really encouraging is the group that did so well in Qatar will be 4 years older with 4 years more experience in top European leagues, just entering their primes, and should be deeper in 3 years with more young talent coming into the player pool.
I would include several of the dual national targets from the article I linked a few days back.This was a fun read and pertinent to this conversation last week. Some thoughts/observations...
1) I thought it was interesting that 13 players were listed before the starting 11 was filled out. I'd have expected 12 given the log jam at wing/central midfield when all of Gio, Puli, Weah, McKennie, Musah, and Adams are healthy. One of those guys has to sit unless we run with 3 in the back. But that 2 strikers were listed before the first 2 center backs were listed caught me off guard. Pepi has had a strong 2023, but I'm not sure he's that high yet. To be fair, I'm not sure Balogun is yet, either.
2) CCV as the 3rd center back doesn't seem too crazy right now when he's healthy. I always thought highly of his potential, but that he's found it at Celtic is a bit of a surprise. He's been great for them, though. Hopefully he can continue that run of form b/c he's got the tools.
3) Somewhat related to CCV is the young talent coming up at center back. Trusty and Neal to go with Richards could be 3 guys with more talent than we took to Qatar at that position. Add in MRob and McKenzie who are still around 25 like CCV and there are 6 center back options with loads of athleticism unlike we've ever seen at the position. Contrast that with our center back options in Qatar. We had Zimm and Ream starting with Long and CCV as back-ups. The defense was really quite solid in Qatar. Positionally Zimm and Ream were fantastic. But if we can get 4 of those 6 young guys grasping positional concepts like Ream and Zimm and playing the ball safely out of the back that could make us even tougher to face defensively. Adams sure helped those two guys a lot too. Having more athleticism behind Tyler could make him more effective in the middle third rather than the defensive third.
4) Slonina ahead of Steffen and Horvath this time last year would have sounded line toon town. I think him getting regular minutes in Belgium could be massive for us given his ceiling. Turner was NOT listed in our discussion as a guy who could be displaced by 2026, but the upside Slonina has and his crazy young age for his level of experience could make him a candidate to unseat a guy we'd consider a lead pipe lock to start in 2026.
5) Cade Cowell is similar to Slonina, but not a threat to unseat a starter, IMO. But I can see him overtaking Brendan Aaronson for the role he plays for the Nats (high energy super sub). Cowell has the same energy level, superior speed and ball skills, and basically plays the same position.
6) Guys who could work their way into that 16+ top-end talents (I'll define it as guys who could start for top clubs in the top 5 leagues in Europe) we'd need to compete for a WC title are Booth, Trusty, Reynolds, Scally, P. Aaronson, Paredes, and Cowell, IMO. I'm not saying all of them will become those types in 3 years, but they all have the potential. They're all extremely young, extremely athletic, and performing well this calendar year. Each is capable of a breakout campaign this year or next to put them higher on the USMNT radar for 2026. If it takes 16+ to win a WC you'd ideally want some of those 5+ not in the first 11 to be young guys oozing with talent. That way you're building your program well for the next cycle and beyond.
7) Cremaschi was a fun story this last window and it will certainly be interesting to watch that play out, but Noel Buck was a name I hadn't heard before who will also be interesting to watch. Beating out the 3 Lions for another dual-national would be weird.
With the United States men's national team's qualification already secure for the 2026 World Cup, GOAL breaks down the players who are most likely to feature for the tournament co-hostswww.goal.com
True. It'll be fun to see how the next couple of years develop. I bet all but 1-2 spots on the 2026 roster will be penciled in pretty dark by the end of summer 2025. Only injury would change that much. But 2 years is a long time for some 19 year old kids just starting professional careers.I would include several of the dual national targets from the article I linked a few days back.
Hoping we get on Koleosho in this October & November. Pulisic, Weah, Boothe, Koleosho seems very promising.True. It'll be fun to see how the next couple of years develop. I bet all but 1-2 spots on the 2026 roster will be penciled in pretty dark by the end of summer 2025. Only injury would change that much. But 2 years is a long time for some 19 year old kids just starting professional careers.
Please do. Though I'm not sick. It's Chongo and dawg who are the sicko ARSEnal fans. The conversation is more fun when there are more of us.I need to be more active here, as you all seem about as sick as I am. Y’all check out 15YO Berchimas for Charlotte. Playing up two age groups with the US U17s. Baller.
Koleosho is definitely going to be another fun one to watch. He and Boothe could be huge weapons. And honestly, if Puli can't stay consistently healthy and in good form I could see a possible opening on the wing if Gio plays more centrally like he did in Nations League. That was as good as Gio has ever looked. We're getting so crowded with talent in the midfield and on the wings. That's the type of depth it takes to make a deep run at the WC. Hopefully those guys choose us. Boothe seems less likely at the moment.Hoping we get on Koleosho in this October & November. Pulisic, Weah, Boothe, Koleosho seems very promising.