A Concacaf Nations League title, the trophy itself, may have limited prestige and importance. It is the international equivalent of the League Cup of England. But the timing of the new competition, which will conclude with the semifinals and finals June 3-6 in Denver, makes it crucial for a young but ambitious men’s national team. This year is the time, not the trophies, that’s all.
The end goal is qualification for the 2022 World Cup, so work backwards from that. The Concacaf octagonal begins in September. The core of the USA plays in Europe and, having finished long club campaigns, those players will need a break for the summer. That means USA coach Gregg Berhalter will leave most of those men out of the Concacaf Gold Cup squad in July. And that, in turn, means that the Nations League is the last chance before qualifying begins to gather the best talents in the country, put them to the test in competitive circumstances, and practice and play in a qualifying-like programming cadence. for the World Cup.
As a result, the 23-man League of Nations roster announced Monday afternoon represents almost the best team Berhalter can put together, barring a couple of injuries. It’s a snapshot of the top tier of the group of players that Berhalter and his staff have been building for two years.
“We are excited to bring this group together as we compete to win the Nations League trophy,” Gregg Berhalter said in a statement Monday. “It has been a great year for our group of players and the unprecedented successes of winning multiple league and cup championships. [in Europe]. Our focus now is to continue this success with the national team. “
The United States is currently meeting in Switzerland for high altitude training ahead of Sunday’s friendly in St. Gallen. The conditions will set the stage for playing in Colorado, while the game, then the transatlantic flight, then the pace of the game will be similar to what most Berhalter players will experience when heading overseas for the World Cup qualifiers. World in autumn. There will be three-game qualifying windows in both September and October. The United States will face Honduras in the semifinal on June 3, either Mexico or Costa Rica in the final or the match for third place on June 6 and then Costa Rica in a friendly on June 9, thus completing a stretch. of four games in 11 days. .
“We’ve been looking at this carefully and what we’re seeing is that this is going to replicate the cadence of a player playing for his club’s team on the weekend, flying across the ocean and then preparing for a three-game block. in Qualifying for the World Cup, “Berhalter said last week.” This will really help us to gather information on what the players are looking for and what the load will be. We will use all four games to be able to test that, and I think it will not be realistic. expect all the same players to play every game. So what we’re going to have to do is balance. It’s going to have to be a squad effort. “
Berhalter summoned 27 players to camp before the friendly against Switzerland, but was limited to 23 for the Nations League competition. Six will be left behind after Sunday, while Christian Pulisic and Zack Steffen, consumed by Saturday’s Champions League final, will team up to complete the group. Among those killed were Orlando City forward Daryl Dike, who just finished a successful loan stint with Barnsley; Greuther Fürth midfielder Julian Green, who helped his club win promotion to the Bundesliga; and defender Bryan Reynolds, who recently signed with AS Roma.
Valencia midfielder Yunus Musah has committed to the USA program, but will ultimately be tied if he takes part in a Nations League match. Also notable is the presence of Tyler Adams. The midfielder missed RB Leipzig’s last three games with a back injury, but it seems unlikely that Berhalter will book a place in the Nations League for Adams unless he’s ready to play. Adams, Weston McKennie and Pulisic, perhaps the three most outstanding players of their generation, have not played together in more than two years.
Despite that, Berhalter believes that the building and learning parts of this cycle are almost complete. His communication, tactics and approach have been consistent and the players know what to expect. Now the games that really matter are coming, so the killer instinct must be refined. The Nations League not only allows Berhalter access to his best players, but it will also allow him to assess the ability of this group to close competitive matches.
“Now is the time. When you enter a summer where you have two trophies, and then you have qualification for the World Cup and then the World Cup, we are talking in a year and a half, basically a cycle is going to be done. . “Berhalter told US Soccer.” This group is going to define itself based on how we do it this year and a half. And for us, I think this group is very talented. I think this group has a lot of potential. But now it’s about going out and showing it. I think we laid the groundwork and the guys are comfortable with who we are as a group, and now it’s about acting. “
Here’s the United States Nations League team:
GOALKEEPERS: Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake), Zack Steffen (Manchester City)
DEFENDERS: John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Reggie Cannon (Boavista), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona), Mark McKenzie (Genk), Matt Miazga (Anderlecht), Tim Ream (Fulham), Antonee Robinson (Fulham), DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray)
MEDIA: Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Juventus), Yunus Musah (Valencia), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes)
FORWARD: Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen), Jordan Siebatcheu (Young Boys), Tim Weah (Lille)
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.