North America XI
What would happen if each continent’s best stars formed up to create a super team? Well, I have the answers. Up first, the North America XI. (Image Credit: CONCACAF, via concacaf.com)

2021 Best XI Continent Edition: North America

What would happen if each continent’s best stars formed up to create a super team? You’re about to find out. This is going to be a six-part installment where I comprise a starting XI for each continent’s soccer confederation – sorry Antarctica – with this first chapter featuring North America and some bright young talent.

I wrestled with multiple formations trying to maximize the full potential for the squad, and settled on a 4-2-3-1 formation. This squad will likely be one of, if not, the youngest in this installment, but the upside is there. It’ll be interesting to see where this North American XI ranks at the end.

Goalkeeper: Keylor Navas, 34, Costa Rica

The oldest player in this starting XI, Navas is the one between the sticks for North America. The PSG goalkeeper will have a battle waiting for him in Paris next season, but in this imaginary world, he still is the No. 1 option in CONCACAF. The Costa Rican international had 15 clean sheets in 29 matches for Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1 last season. He is superbly quick and athletic, even at his age, and in a youthful squad, a sure-footed leader and captain is much needed.

Center-Back: John Brooks, 28, United States

The older, more experienced center-back in this pairing, Brooks will offer good physicality along the backline. His play out of the back has become much better and alongside some youth with Alvarez, it figures to bode well for the squad. He’s an intelligent player, offers good size on set pieces, and right now, is the best center-back in CONCACAF.

Center-Back: Edson Álvarez, 23, Mexico

Álvarez has played well for Ajax and will deservedly feature in this squad. He reads the game well for a player his age and his technical ability is extremely apparent and important in a pairing with Brooks. The Ajax defender is good aerially and would certainly be a threat on these hypothetical set pieces.

Left Back: Alphonso Davies, 20, Canada

He’s the best player in North America. One of the stars of Bayern Munich’s Champions League run during the 2019-20 season, the Canadian defender is the first name on the team sheet when I began comprising a list. Davies is explosive on the ball, lightning quick, and can wreak havoc with Christian Pulisic on the left side of the pitch. Just thinking about this makes me wish a continental tournament was a real possibility.

Right Back: Sergino Dest, 20, United States

Dest is the youngest player on this squad, but only by a day – the Barcelona right-back was born on November 3 with the aforementioned Davies joining this world the day before. The 20-year-old struggled at points in the United States’ Nations League win against Mexico, but he is the best option among the full-backs at this position. He has great technical skills, but his effort at times is worrisome. He can whip balls in with the attack and offers great pace on the wings. It’s a good fit.

Defensive Midfielder: Tyler Adams, 22, United States

The RB Leipzig midfielder is composed and intelligent beyond his years. When subbed on for the United States in the Nations League final, he was an instant refresher for the Americans, seemingly relaxing the squad as the match heightened. Adams reads the game excellently, always appearing to be in the right place at the right time. He shuts down passing channels well. He can also help this team build out of the back and will find the pockets along the wings for Lozano, Pulisic and more to run into.

Defensive Midfielder: Weston McKennie, 22, United States

The heart and soul of the American team will likely be the same for this squad. A maniac on the pitch, McKennie has energy for days, a complete opposite – in a good way – of the composure and poise of his midfield mate Adams. The Juventus youngster is a great two-way midfielder and will hunt for the ball whenever it is lost. His aerial ability might be the best in this side, and will be a welcomed sight in the box for any number of set piece takers on this team.

Left Winger: Christian Pulisic, 22, United States

The wing positions were no brainers. Pulisic and Lozano are the two best in CONCACAF at their positions. Despite several nagging injuries, when healthy, Pennsylvania’s great soccer hope is really fun to watch. He has great pace and when he is cutting in from the left, he is at his best. The stats don’t always reflect it, but he creates a number of chances and dribbles with the ball on a string. America’s No. 10 will lead the country’s golden generation for the next decade and could very well lead the North America XI attack.

Attacking Midfielder: Jonathan David, 21, Canada

It has been great to see David’s evolution into one of the best attackers in CONCACAF, but seeing him do it in red and white instead of stars and stripes is unfortunate – he has dual nationality with both Canada and the US for those who are confused. The Lille forward scored 13 goals in 48 appearances for the French side, and although the numbers are not earth shattering, his production is very important to this team. He also links up well with Davies – certainly not surprising – and that tandem could be invaluable for the squad.

Right Winger: Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, 25, Mexico

Lozano is one of the best young players in North America, but he is likely outgrowing, literally and figuratively, that label. The Napoli winger had 15 goals in 43 appearances for the Serie A team last season. Those stats may not blow you away, but his pressing ability and pace make him a great addition into any XI. He’ll create chances and the link-up play and knowledge with Raúl Jiménez is already present.

Striker: Raúl Jiménez, 30, Mexico

The Wolverhampton striker is coming off of a scary facial and head injury last year, but he is still the best striker in North America. He scored four goals in 10 Premier League matches before his season was abruptly cut short. The previous season offers more of a barometer on what he can do when healthy. Jiménez scored 27 goals and added on nine assists in 55 matches for Wolves. His hold up play is good, he can help drive an attack and will certainly put away chances when they are created.

I must note that there were some very talented players that just didn’t make this starting XI, but that is in no way discounting their ability. Gio Reyna is the United States’ best under-18 talent, and could very well be their best player in a few years. Guillermo Ochoa is a fabulous goalkeeper in his own right, but he just isn’t better than Navas. The list goes on for this underrated North American squad.

It’s a hard task to compile a starting XI for each continent – this North American team was certainly no exception. The youthfulness of this squad would undoubtedly have some concern if there was a tournament tomorrow, alas we don’t have to worry about that… yet. It’s a talented squad with pace and great technical ability, but how will it stack up with the other continental confederation all-stars? You’ll have to wait to find out.

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