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What can we expect from the USMNT? How far can they go? Strengths and weaknesses

Gregg Berhalter’s team hope to make it past the group stage for the third consecutive time. England, Wales and Iran stand in their way.

Gregg Berhalter mandó a su alineación de lujo frente a Honduras, en esta predominan jugadores estadounidenses que militan en el balompié de Europa.
Getty Images

The USMNT made it to the Round of 16 in their last two appearances at the World Cup finals in 2010 and 2014 and will be hoping to emerge as one of the top two teams in Group B. Gregg Berhalter’s team face England, one of the four favourites to lift the trophy, along with two slightly more accessible rivals, Wales and Iran.

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Aiming for the quarter finals and beyond

Berhalter will be taking a competitive squad to Qatar, a roster brimming with talent and enthusiasm - one he hopes will not just make it through the group stage but get as far as they possibly can in the tournament. The USMNT’s best performance at the World Cup was in Japan/Korea 2002 when they reached the quarter finals only to be eliminated by the minimum by eventual finalists, Germany. An improvement on that would be viewed as a great step forward.

Berhalter had the distressing task of telling Goalkeeper Zack Steffan and teenage striker Ricardo Pepi that they are not part of his World Cup squad but insists that he is more than happy with the group who will be making the trip.

“In some of the cases, it’s more about what we have rather than what we don’t have,” the coach explained to ESPN this week. “With the three goalkeepers listed on the roster we feel great. In the case of Ricardo, that was a really difficult conversation that I had to have with him. It’s always difficult when a guy helps you get to the World Cup, he scores three goals in World Cup qualifying and he isn’t going to be a part of the program. Again, it’s more about who we did add, that we felt good about. Josh [Sargent] is competing in the Championship, he was in the Premier League last season - we are playing Wales and England, both teams are stocked with players from those leagues; Haji Wright is in great form with his team in Turkey, scoring nine goals already so far and Jesús [Ferreira] has been good for us - he really understands the gameplan and how to execute it”

USMNT weak points

Berhalter boasts arguably the most talented USMNT squad of recent times and while many of his players are well established at clubs in Europe’s major leagues, they have no World Cup experience as the team has been completely rebuilt since their last appearance at the tournament, under Jürgen Klinsmann, in 2014. They also haven’t had a great deal of time playing together and gel as a team, due to various injuries.

Out of their three group rivals, the USMNT have met England and Wales relatively recently - both in friendlies. They lost 3-0 to Gareth Southgate’s Lions in November 2018 and played out a goalless draw with Wales in Swansea a couple of years ago. As for Iran, who on paper are the weakest side in the group, their last encounter was over 20 years ago. Carlos Queiroz’s team warmed up for the tournament with encouraging results - a slim win against Uruguay and a 1-1 draw against Senegal, and at the World Cup, nothing can be taken for granted.

Route to the final

The USMNT’s possible rivals in the Round of 16 are from Group A: Qatar, Ecuador, Senegal and the Netherlands - if Berhalter’s men win Group B, they will face the runners-up from Group A; if they finish second, they will face the winners. At least they will avoid the big guns and with it, an opportunity for the USMNT to make it to the quarter finals where things could start to get a little tricky - in the Last 8, there is a strong chance they could meet Argentina or defending champions France.


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