U.S. Men Finally Earn Their Pay

Issue 14, Volume 112

By Krish Gupta 

Chelsea. Barcelona. Juventus. Dortmund. Manchester City.

The list of clubs that the U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) players call home is electrifying, and the expectations for this year’s World Cup are accordingly higher than ever.

Since the dawn of the 21st century, the USMNT has been dwarfed in viewership, headlines, and success by the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT). While the USWNT has been busy winning World Cups and pushing forward equality, the men have been lagging behind, struggling to even qualify for the sport’s biggest stage in one of the world’s easiest qualifying fields in the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) group. However, the men are finally making their presence known with the Qatar 2022 World Cup on the horizon.

Qualifying for the World Cup was no cakewalk with the surprising and rapid emergence of Canada, the continuing ever-present threat of Mexico, and the solid teams in Costa Rica and Panama. After an up-and-down qualifying run, the Americans vanquished their 2017 demons, making no mistake in the final round of the qualifying window, including a key draw at the Mexican team’s fortress, the Azteca; a 5-1 thumping of 2018 World Cup participants Panama; and an avoidance of a catastrophic loss versus Costa Rica.

The last appearance of the United States in the 2014 World Cup was a thrilling one, with a run into the Round of 16. This year’s roster is even more exciting and considerably younger than the 2014 squad. Out are the American stalwarts of Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Michael Bradley, and Jozy Altidore. In is a new generation of players at the top level, including Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna, Sergiño Dest, and Ricardo Pepi.

In recent years, American players have flocked over the sea to play for European heavyweights in unprecedented numbers and for unprecedented figure amounts. There’s no better example than Gio Reyna, the New York City Football Club academy product who was shipped to Dortmund, one of Bundesliga’s top clubs, and has become a consistent member of USMNT camps at just 19 years old. The son of USMNT legend Claudio Reyna, Gio Reyna is a dangerous player when he can stay healthy, demonstrated best when immediately after being subbed in, Gio Reyna beat over half of the Mexican team on the dribble and later set up a golden opportunity for Jordan Pefok to score.

Undoubtedly, the best player of the States is Pulisic—Captain America, the LeBron James of Soccer, and the Man in the Mirror. He is the only American to have won the Champions League, and he is the USMNT’s most prolific scorer heading into the World Cup. Wearing the armband in that key match versus Panama, Pulisic was out in full force, notching his first international hat trick. His last goal of that night is one that will be watched over and over again—a wayward touch into two defenders before slipping in a nutmeg and capping it off with a cool finish. For the U.S. to go far, Pulisic will have to stay in top form.

The United States has a history of quality goalkeeping, and the pool from which they can select for the World Cup is star-studded. Leading the way are Matt Turner of the New England Revolution (soon to be a player of Arsenal) and Zack Steffen of Manchester City. Whomever USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter gives the nod to, he can be confident in his shot-stopper.

After being drawn into the so-called Group of Death in Brazil 2014, the draw of the United States is manageable from an American perspective.

Here’s a look at the prospects of their 2022 Group Stage foes:


England is among the favorites to win the tournament. They will be pleased with their draw and should have no trouble picking up nine points and making the Round of 16. The sheer amount of talent and experience the English side has is second to none. Manager Gareth Southgate is confident that his team can win the World Cup final. England went all the way to the tournament semifinals before falling to Croatia in 2018.

Key players to watch in England include Harry Kane, Jude Bellingham, and Trent-Alexander Arnold. It’s hard to imagine the U.S. taking three points off the tournament favorite, but if their 2010 World Cup meeting was any indication, it will be close.


Iran has recently become a consistent presence in the World Cup, but they have little to show from any of their appearances. Regardless of which team emerges from the European qualifier, expect Iran to bow out of the tournament before the knockout stages.

The key player for Iran is Porto striker Mehdi Taremi. This game is a must-win for the United States. Iran has become a World Cup regular and is accustomed to group stage exits.

European Qualifier (Wales/Scotland/Ukraine)

Whoever emerges from the final European qualifier will likely be the most important match of the United States. The favorite here is Wales, led by superstar Gareth Bale. If Ukraine manages to make it, though, they will be playing with more heart and motivation than anyone. This game will likely be the most important match for the red, white, and blue in the fight for second place.

Given the presence of the English players, the United States will likely finish in second place and advance to face the winner of Group A (most likely the Netherlands) in the Round of 16.

Sixty-four games, 16 advances, one champion: though a lot has happened in the world since the last World Cup four years ago, the world’s biggest sporting event is back, and the USMNT will (hopefully) not disappoint again. Let the games begin.