A way-too-early look at the USMNT depth chart for 2026 World Cup

Danny Karbassiyoon was positively on the record sooner or later. Gedion Zelalem, too. Freddy Adu, clearly. Brian Ching was precisely what we would have liked. We’re sufficiently old that guys akin to Jesse Marsch and Taylor Twellman have been nearly actually on the record at one level. Oh, what might have been, Charlie Davies. I am nonetheless holding out hope, Joe Corona. You broke my coronary heart, Bobby Convey.

For years, some nerd buddies of mine and I had the identical behavior. As quickly as the USA males’s nationwide workforce have been eradicated from a World Cup — beginning in 2002, so far as I can inform, and lengthening by way of 2006, 2010 and 2014 — we’d instantly venture ahead 4 years. We’d make spreadsheets of participant names (stunning habits coming from me, I understand), convincing ourselves that not solely have been the younger gamers on every given World Cup workforce going to take large steps ahead, however that the up-and-coming technology of American youngsters was going to remodel the participant pool and switch the US into a real contender.

– World Cup 2022: Information and options | Schedule

What’s humorous is we did not do it after 2018 for apparent causes — specifically, that the US did not even qualify for the World Cup, so what the heck was the purpose — after which… it really kind of occurred. The youths took over the US participant pool within the 5 years between the workforce’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup (we can’t point out Couva!) and their development to the 2022 World Cup’s spherical of 16. In complete, 16 People performed not less than 45 minutes on the World Cup in Qatar, and 12 of them have been 24 years previous or youthful, which means they have been youngsters when the US misplaced at Trinidad and Tobago to clinch failure in October 2017.

This group of breakthrough children — Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah dominating the midfield, Sergino Dest at full-back, and just about everybody who performed upfront, led by Tim Weah and Christian Pulisic — are going to face overwhelming expectations heading towards the 2026 World Cup, which they are going to be enjoying on house soil. And the important thing to residing as much as that hype shall be one other group of children making an attempt to make the very same affect that this technology simply did.

It is going to be way more tough for a brand new technology to interrupt by way of as a result of the identical alternatives for taking part in time shall be more durable to come back by. However they need to strive. Particularly if they will rating targets. Let us take a look at how the US participant pool will take form for 2026.

First issues first: 4 years is a very long time

It is nearly jarring, on reflection, to look again at who performed for the US throughout 2018 qualification. Tim Howard, 38 on the time, was nonetheless in aim. Midfielders Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman, every 35 years younger, have been nonetheless vital. DaMarcus Beasley, additionally 35, performed two matches at left-back. On a per-minute foundation, Clint Dempsey (34) and Sacha Kljestan (32 and a midfielder) have been the workforce’s most prolific scorers.

Solely two gamers — Pulisic and right-back DeAndre Yedlin — recorded starter-level minutes on this 2018 cycle after which additionally performed in 2022. Solely three different gamers — Tim Ream, Kellyn Acosta and Jordan Morris — have been concerned in each 2017 and 2022. Jurgen Klinsmann and Bruce Area performed 38 totally different guys within the hopes of discovering a lineup that might save their World Cup hopes, and solely 5 of them really landed on the following World Cup roster. That may be a dramatic quantity of turnover.

Whoever is in control of the nationwide workforce throughout this subsequent four-year cycle, be it Gregg Berhalter or somebody new — we’ll discover out the plans quickly, as Berhalter’s contract is expiring — is not going to be pressured to bear the identical quantity of transition. However let’s take a position-by-position walk-through to see the place massive selections should be made, and/or the place breakthroughs could be significantly helpful.



Frank Leboeuf criticizes USA’s defending because the workforce crashed out of the Qatar World Cup to Netherlands within the final 16.


  • Gamers concerned in 2022 World Cup and qualification (listed so as of minutes): Matt Turner (shall be 31 when the 2026 World Cup begins), Zack Steffen (31)

  • Different gamers who performed in not less than two US matches prior to now two years: Ethan Horvath (30)

How way back was the failed 2018 qualification? Effectively, Turner had made his skilled debut solely months earlier, and the Fairfield graduate would not make his MLS debut till the next spring. Then he began for the US on the subsequent World Cup.

It looks like this place is on strong footing. At 28, Turner simply joined Arsenal in time to strategy what typically finally ends up being a goalkeeper’s peak years. He is a backup there and we’ll see how issues take form for him, however he was one of many higher pure shot-stoppers in Qatar. Steffen nonetheless has just a little time to get his profession again on monitor after an injury-laden interval of late, too, and whereas gamers akin to Sean Johnson (37 on the time of the following World Cup) are doubtless growing old out of the pool, it does not seem that the US lacks in thrilling younger choices.

5 names to get enthusiastic about

1. Gabriel Slonina (22 in 2026). Evidently, when you signal with Chelsea at age 18, you are going to find yourself fairly excessive on any prospects record. The 6-foot-4 Slonina held his personal in MLS and now takes on the dangerous lifetime of turning into a part of Chelsea’s mortgage military.

2. Chituru Odunze (23). He moved from the Vancouver Whitecaps to Leicester Metropolis with out enjoying a senior-level match, and he hasn’t achieved so for the Foxes both. However he is 6-7, and he stays one of many highest-potential gamers within the pool.

3. Diego Kochen (20). The lanky 16-year-old has spent the previous year-and-a-half within the Barcelona pipeline. He is a great distance from the primary workforce, however that membership alone will get you placed on a listing like this.

4. John Pulskamp (25). The 5-10 Sporting KC keeper is extra of an athlete than a towering presence, however he had Berhalter’s consideration sufficient to get a call-up to camp final December.

5. Chris Brady (22). The 18-year-old has already shined on the USL League One stage and made his Chicago Hearth debut this previous season.

Middle again

  • Gamers concerned in 2022 World Cup and qualification (listed so as of minutes): Walker Zimmerman (shall be 33 when the 2026 World Cup begins), Miles Robinson (29), Tim Ream (38), Chris Richards (26), John Brooks (33), Cameron Carter-Vickers (28), Erik Palmer-Brown (29), Mark McKenzie (27)

  • Different gamers who performed in not less than two US matches prior to now two years: Aaron Lengthy (33), Matt Miazga (30), Henry Kessler (27), Donovan Pines (28)

Berhalter leaned on the middle again duo of Zimmerman and Robinson for a lot of World Cup qualification, however he was thrown for a loop when Robinson ruptured his Achilles in Could. Assuming he finally returns to full kind, Robinson shall be 29 and well-positioned to make the 2026 workforce, however there might nonetheless be fairly a little bit of turnover at this place within the coming years. Zimmerman and Ream performed essentially the most minutes on the World Cup, however Zimmerman is growing old and Ream is historical. (I am even older, so I am allowed to say that.)

It is true that loads of middle backs age gracefully, however even when Zimmerman stays viable, he and Robinson might each get pushed by up-and-comers akin to Carter-Vickers, the Celtic defender who performed effectively in opposition to Iran, and the oft-injured Richards, who may need been the first-choice man in 2022 if he might have stayed wholesome.

If no high-upside names emerge within the coming years, this place nonetheless could possibly be effectively taken care of by veterans, however there are nonetheless some intriguing prospects to look at.

5 names to get enthusiastic about

1. Justin Che (23 in 2026). The FC Dallas product bought a strong run in MLS in 2021 (his ball development numbers have been beautiful), then went out on mortgage to Hoffenheim. He has but to interrupt into heavy rotation there, however he is massive, energetic and bodily. His future might find yourself at both middle again or right-back.

2. Grayson Dettoni (20). He is already 6-foot-4 and has been within the Bayern Munich pipeline for some time. What else do you should know?

3. Kobi Henry (22). The Lakeland, Florida, product debuted for the USL’s Orange County SC at 16 and signed with France’s Stade de Reims this previous summer season.

4. Brandan Craig (22). He might find yourself at both middle again or defensive midfield, he made his debut for Philadelphia Union at 18, and he is a gradual presence within the US U20 pool.

5. Tyler Corridor (20). A product of Inter Miami, the 16-year-old is already within the US U17 and MLS Subsequent Professional rotations. Main potential right here.


The velocity and urgent skills of Fulham’s Robinson and AC Milan’s Dest made an enormous distinction for the US in Qatar, despite the fact that each battled fatigue points because the event wore on. In the meantime, although Scally has not been given a lot of a run below Berhalter for some purpose, he has began for the Bundesliga’s Borussia Monchengladbach for a lot of the previous season and a half and will not flip 20 till New Yr’s Eve.

– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, extra (US)

One might surprise concerning the potential of the US full-back corps outdoors of those three gamers; Moore struggled within the World Cup, Bello’s growth seems to have stunted since his transfer to Germany’s Arminia Bielefeld, and we’ll see if both McKenzie or Cannon have one other gear to search out within the coming years. A pair extra names must emerge in order that the US aren’t utterly depending on three guys for 2 positions. Fortunately, there’s loads of upside within the pipeline to the extent that I struggled to maintain the next record at 5 names.

5 names to get enthusiastic about

1. Kevin Paredes (23 in 2026). After a strong age-18 season with D.C. United in 2021 — he scored three targets with one help, and he was a pressures machine — Paredes moved to the Bundesliga’s Wolfsburg this previous January. He has made 10 appearances to date, and he stays a pressures machine. It seems he could possibly be a significant weapon on the fitting or left, too.

2. Jonathan Gomez (22). The Actual Sociedad B left-back might nonetheless play for both the US or Mexico (he has performed in friendlies for each and appeared for the US U20 workforce as just lately as September) and has the makings of a gradual ball progressor.

3. John Tolkin (23). Already a New York Purple Bulls stalwart and a dependable defender, Tolkin was linked to Anderlecht over the summer season and can doubtless be on his solution to Europe sooner or later within the coming years.

4. Christian McFarlane (19). New York Metropolis FC signed the England-born, New York-raised McFarlane to a first-team contract when he was 14, making him the youngest participant in MLS historical past to signal such a contract. Potential: off the charts.

5. Caleb Wiley (21). The Atlanta-born Wiley already has a full season of MLS play below his belt, and he was one among Atlanta United’s steadier defenders.


  • Gamers concerned in 2022 World Cup and qualification (listed so as of minutes): Tyler Adams (shall be 27 when the 2026 World Cup begins), Yunus Musah (23), Weston McKennie (27), Kellyn Acosta (30), Luca de la Torre (28), Sebastian Lletget (33), Gianluca Busio (24), Cristian Roldan (31), James Sands (25), Aaron Lengthy (33)

  • Different gamers who performed in not less than two US matches prior to now two years: Jackson Yueill (29), Eryk Williamson (28), Johnny Cardoso (24)

At 23, Adams is already the US captain and after how he carried out in that position in Qatar, it could possibly be his for an extended, very long time. Adams, McKennie and Musah have been so good on the World Cup that they already earned a unit nickname — “MMA,” get it? — and they’ll all be at or close to their respective peaks in 4 years. If there is a single standout purpose for 2026 optimism, it comes from this.

The depth, nonetheless, might nonetheless stand to enhance. Acosta has been a strong backup and fill-in for years, however Busio, one other high-upside teenager, clearly struggled to earn Berhalter’s belief and with gamers like Acosta, Roldan and Lletget crossing age 30 quickly, there could possibly be room for children within the rotation. That is good as a result of there are heaps of children who might command consideration quickly.

5 names to get enthusiastic about

1. Reed Baker-Whiting (21 in 2026). The Guardian named the 17-year-old a part of its Subsequent Era 2022 crop in September. He dominated the MLS’ Era Adidas Cup, and in 305 minutes with the Seattle Sounders, he has created 5 possibilities and tried six pictures value 1.4 xG. Of all of the youngsters we’re discussing, Baker-Whiting is perhaps the almost certainly participant to pressure his manner into the US supervisor’s plans.

Or he may not. Who is aware of? We’re speaking about 17-year-olds right here.

2. Adrian Gill (20). The Denver-born, Catalonia-bred, La Masia product is the closest factor the US has to a Pedri-style prospect. He has already made appearances with Barcelona’s B workforce, and he does not flip 17 till January.

3. Obed Vargas (20). One other 17-year-old Sounder, Vargas has already logged greater than 1,300 minutes in MLS and the CONCACAF Champions League. He has main potential in a pivot midfield position, and he has confirmed that he can each go the ball and draw contact at excessive ranges.

4. Taylor Sales space (25). We’d have to attend a bit longer on Baker-Whiting and Vargas, however Sales space is nearly prepared. The onetime Bayern prospect landed with the Eredivisie’s Utrecht this season and is enjoying effectively in numerous positions, from each wings to defensive midfield.

5. Paxton Pomykal (26). I am going to admit it: I anticipated Pomykal to be extra concerned with the US nationwide workforce over the previous yr. One of many extra inventive and bodily deep-lying midfielders in MLS, the 22-year-old is 2 years faraway from a season-long groin harm, and he is typically good within the pressures division. If there may be certainly a training change for the US, maybe the following supervisor will see higher issues from the FC Dallas stalwart.

OK, I can not assist it. There are too many intriguing prospects in midfield, so here is a sixth identify.

6. Quinn Sullivan (22). A gradual sub for the Union, who topped Main League Soccer’s Jap Convention chief in 2022, Sullivan can play nearly anyplace from full-back to ahead, and regardless of getting used nearly in every single place, he nonetheless ended up creating 2.0 pictures and a couple of.0 possibilities per 90 minutes this season.

Wingers and attacking midfielders

  • Gamers concerned in 2022 World Cup and qualification (listed so as of minutes): Christian Pulisic (shall be 27 when the 2026 World Cup begins), Tim Weah (26), Brenden Aaronson (25), Gio Reyna (23), Paul Arriola (31), Jordan Morris (31), Konrad De la Fuente (24)

  • Different gamers who performed in not less than two US matches prior to now two years: Jonathan Lewis (29), Chris Mueller (29), Malik Tillman (24)

It’s jarring to think about simply how lengthy Christian Pulisic has already been doing this. He made his Bundesliga debut in January 2016, almost seven years in the past, and he scored his first aim for the US in Could 2016. And he solely simply turned 24 this fall. Tim Weah has already been an up-and-comer, a disappointing, injury-prone prospect and a World Cup scorer, and he is 22.

Gio Reyna has misplaced most of a season to harm, however nonetheless has 12 profession targets for Borussia Dortmund and 4 for the US, solely turning 20 a number of weeks in the past. Brenden Aaronson went from attention-grabbing MLS prospect to Premier League stalwart in principally two years and is simply 22. Even Djordje Mihailovic, one other inventive participant who hasn’t seen a lot time below Berhalter, is simply 24 and shifting to the Eredivisie this season.

This group has already achieved greater than most US gamers have in European membership play, they usually’re simply getting began. Whereas gamers like Arriola and Morris might start to age out of the plans within the coming years, these 4 will not for fairly some time. And if a participant like Tillman, Mihailovic or one of many names beneath can increase their respective video games within the coming seasons, this could possibly be the deepest space of expertise within the participant pool.

5 names to get enthusiastic about

1. Paxten Aaronson (23 in 2026). A bit extra prolific with the Philadelphia Union than his brother, Aaronson might play any variety of central or attacking roles and can now ply his commerce with Eintracht Frankfurt within the Bundesliga. (He signed in November.) He does just a little little bit of all the things, and he is higher than most midfielders about creating respectable pictures for himself.

– Hamilton: Meet the superb Aaronson household

2. Caden Clark (23). Aaronson and Clark would possibly quickly get to face off within the Bundesliga. The 19-year-old Clark signed with RB Leipzig in 2021 earlier than getting loaned again to New York Purple Bulls. He is a protected ball-progressor and would possibly already be one of many higher crossers within the participant pool.

3. Esmir Bajraktarevic (21). Already dominant in MLS Subsequent Professional, the 17-year-old from Wisconsin made a trio of appearances for the New England Revolution in 2022. He might find yourself in midfield and even middle ahead, however his crossing capacity makes him significantly harmful on each wings.

4. Kristian Fletcher (21). A product of Bethesda, Maryland, Fletcher was linked to Borussia Dortmund a yr in the past, and he was a success for the USL Championship’s Loudoun United this season. He solely just lately turned 18, however has already made a few U20 appearances.

5. Axel Perez (19). A reputation to financial institution for later.

Middle forwards

Whereas I hope you may have gone by way of this complete piece, line for line, I understand there are respectable odds that understanding how a lot the US has lacked within the middle ahead division lately, you instantly went to this part seeking hope. I counsel you to scroll again up and not less than learn the final couple of sections, too: whereas the US must be loaded within the midfield and on the wings for years to come back, there is not any assured savior within the ahead ranks.

Probably the most reassuring factor you’ll be able to say concerning the poor displaying from US middle forwards in Qatar is that this was a very younger unit. Josh Sargent, Haji Wright and Jesus Ferreira did not precisely set the world on hearth: In 338 complete minutes, they mixed for simply 128 touches and 10 pictures value 0.9 xG. Their passing created two possibilities for others, however the lone aim that got here from this group — Wright’s within the 76th minute in opposition to the Netherlands — was a clumsy contact and, frankly, a cheerful accident off his heel.

Of the three, solely the 24-year-old Wright was even born earlier than 2000. No matter Sargent, Ferreira and even Ricardo Pepi, Daryl Dike or Nicholas Gioacchini turn into, they are not there but. Sargent is having fun with a powerful season with Norwich Metropolis within the English Championship, Ferreira is a success with FC Dallas, and Pepi appears to have discovered his footing with Groningen within the Eredivisie (six targets in 9 matches). And if or when Dike can get wholesome, he is nonetheless in place to probably make noise with West Brom.

Even when it seems to be too late for a World Cup bid for a participant like Pefok — who’s nonetheless solely 26, thoughts you — there are nonetheless loads of gamers right here who ought to enhance, maybe considerably. One can nonetheless hope for a brand new identify or two to emerge — and it is all the time conceivable that somebody akin to Reyna or Weah might find yourself enjoying extra of a job by way of the center at each membership and nation stage sooner or later — nevertheless it in all probability stands to purpose that the USA’ biggest place of want additionally boasts the fewest ready-made prospects.

This is not the one nation on the earth struggling to provide sturdy front-end scorers (good day, Germany, Spain and England the following time Harry Kane will get harm), however it’s struggling all the identical, and the pipeline is not almost as loaded.

There are nonetheless some names to comply with, in fact…

5 names to get enthusiastic about

1. Malick Sanogo (21). Like Baker-Whiting in 2022, Sanogo was named to the Guardian’s Subsequent Era record for 2021 after scoring 38 targets in 46 matches over two seasons with Union Berlin’s U17 workforce. The New York-born 18-year-old has performed for the US U20 squad however is eligible to play for Germany and Ivory Coast as effectively. Whoever is main the nationwide workforce shifting ahead can have a recruitment job to do right here, however the payoff for successful his providers could possibly be intensive.

2. Cade Cowell (23). We’re placing Cowell on the forwards record out of a way of hope. After a strong 2021 marketing campaign upfront — he scored 11 targets with 5 assists and did not flip 18 till late within the season — Cowell performed totally on the left wing in 2022 to accommodate addition Jeremy Ebobisse, and whereas his productiveness was nonetheless strong (eight targets, three assists), effectively… the US has a whole lot of wingers. Cowell is a powerful passer and dribbler, however there are minutes to be discovered for anybody who can command a presence in the midst of the assault.

3. Ezekiel Soto (19). It speaks to the shortage of depth up entrance that I am placing a 15-year-old within the No. 3 spot, however Soto is exclusive and energetic. In 480 minutes over two stints within the MLS Era Adidas Cup, the Houston Dynamo prospect recorded seven pictures value 1.1 xG and created 4 possibilities for teammates. He seems strong within the urgent division, and the ball jumps off of his foot when struck.

4. Folarin Balogun (24). Whereas the following (or present) supervisor is making recruiting pitches, here is one other participant to go to. The New York-born Arsenal ahead has erupted whereas on mortgage with Stade de Reims this season, scoring eight targets with one help from 11 possibilities created in simply 15 matches. He’s eligible to characterize England (for whom he is made 13 U21 appearances), the US (4 U18 appearances) and Nigeria. One would assume there’s enjoying time obtainable right here, particularly if his growth continues to skyrocket.

5. Brandon Vazquez (28). The San Diego-born 24-year-old was a little bit of a late-bloomer, however he is bloomed, and he due to this fact makes this record regardless of superior age (by prospect requirements). He scored 19 targets for FC Cincinnati in the course of the 2022 MLS season, however whereas he performed for the US on the U17, U19 and U20 ranges, he hasn’t earned a call-up but, and he is additionally eligible to play for Mexico. The earlier the US makes an attempt to work him into the fold, the higher.