Who should be on the USMNT roster for the 2022 World Cup?

Who should be on the USMNT roster for the 2022 World Cup? originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Two September friendlies, zero goals.

That’s how the U.S. men’s national team performed in their final games ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar in November. 

First it was a lackluster 2-0 loss to Japan to kickoff the last round of warm-up matches, and a 0-0 draw to Saudi Arabia was the follow-up performance. 

Though Japan and Saudi Arabia are also competing in Qatar, the USMNT did not do itself any favors convincing spectators it can advance in a Group B comprising England, Wales and Iran. 

Head coach Gregg Berhalter has 26 players to name to his squad, which will happen on Nov. 9

Based on how USMNT players have been performing for club and country as of late, let’s look at the best possible roster Berhalter can call up:

Goalkeepers

Three goalkeepers will be called up in November, and it’s safe to bet Arsenal’s Matt Turner will be the nation’s starting No. 1 if healthy. Here’s how this position should pan out:

Starter: Matt Turner, 28, Arsenal – Provides the shot-stopping factor the U.S. will need

Backup: Sean Johnson, 33, NYCFC – Second-most clean sheets in MLS with 14

Backup: Zack Steffen, 27, Middlesbrough – A solid third choice from a decent EFL side

Defenders

Injuries have swamped the top-choice options for the USMNT, with two players confirmed to miss the 2022 World Cup. Atlanta United’s Miles Robinson is out with a torn Achilles, while Chris Richards is sidelined with a thigh injury.

Besides Robinson, here is how the starting back four should pan out along with their backups:

Starting RB: Sergiño Dest, 21, AC Milan – Picking up more consistency after a run with injuries

Starting RCB: Walker Zimmerman, 29, Nashville SC – Solid-level replacement for Richards who can play on the ball

Starting LCB: John Brooks, 29, S.L. Benfica – Berhalter likes using a left-footed CB, and Brooks offers the experience and poise compared to New York Red Bulls’ Aaron Long

Starting LB: Antonee Robinson, 25, Fulham – Best U.S. left-back by a longshot

Backup RB: Joe Scally, 19, Mönchengladbach – Brings fresh energy, can attack, Bundesliga starter

Backup RCB: Cameron Carter-Vickers, 24, Celtic – Comes in to replace Robinson and Richards

Backup LCB: Tim Ream, 34, Fulham – Ream has been excellent for Fulham, a rising team in England. A great in-case-of-emergency option despite lacking pace

Backup LB: DeAndre Yedlin, 29, Inter Miami – He’s a RB, but there’s just not many adequate LB backups ready for the World Cup level

Midfielders

In Berhalter’s 4-3-3 formation, the midfield comprises one No. 6 playing as CDM with two No. 8s in the CM role alongside. 

Starting CDM: Tyler Adams, 23, Leeds United – He’s a tank in the middle of the pitch, but doesn’t offer much offensive juice when he comes up. Performs the No. 6 role the best, though

Starting RCM: Yunus Musah, 19, Valencia – Sorely missed in the friendlies, could be a breakout star if his box-to-box abilities are optimized

Starting LCM: Weston McKinnie, 24, Juventus – Club team is struggling, but is arguably the nation’s best all-around midfielder when in great form

Backup CDM: Kellyn Acosta, 27, LAFC – Not a true No. 8 as the Saudi Arabia game highlighted but makes for a quality backup to Adams

Backup RCM: Brenden Aaronson, 21, Leeds United – Often plays winger, but a free-roaming role as a No. 8 on the right side is a good way to use his high-pressing style more

Backup LCM: Luca de la Torre, 24, Celta de Vigo – Naturally left-footed, can slot in here when needed

Forwards

Let’s look at four wingers and two strikers that should be involved in Qatar, with one very obvious choice:

Starting LW: Christian Pulisic, 24, Chelsea – No doubts here

Starting ST: Jesus Ferreira, 21, FC Dallas – He bagged goals in MLS, but that hasn’t always been the case with the U.S. Still the go-to option here

Starting RW: Timothy Weah, 22, LOSC Lille – Injured for September games, but the best RW on the squad despite not being inverted 

Backup LW: Gio Reyna, 19, Borussia Dortmund – If healthy, he’s a good alternative as an inverted winger behind Pulisic. Can also play centrally, but not at the defensive level needed

Backup ST: Josh Sargent, 22, Norwich City – Eight goals and two assists in 18 league games as a striker in the EFL Championship. He can be a threat.

Backup RW: Paul Arriola, 27, FC Dallas – He’s been around a while and is a safe choice

Three final players

So that’s 22 players who should be on the plane to Qatar, but the expanded squad allows managers to bring three extra players for added depth. Since three goalkeepers are already listed, let’s add one more defender, midfielder and forward:

Extra defender: Aaron Long, 30, New York Red Bulls – Auston Trusty is the better left-footed center-back, but Long has more caps under Berhalter and will likely get the call

Extra midfielder: Cristian Roldan, 27, Seattle Sounders – Missed September games due to injury, can play as a RCM, LCM or winger if necessary. Portland Timbers’ Eryk Williamson deserves a shout, but he hasn’t been involved internationally as much

Extra forward: Ricardo Pepi, 19, Groningen – On loan in the Netherlands but has five goals and two assists in eight games, much better form than the start of the season as Jordan Pefok’s hot start in Germany cooled off