(Photo By David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

USMNT CONCACAF Nations League Preview

The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League by a year, but in just a week the United States will finally face Honduras in the first semifinal on Thursday, June 3. While the delay has sucked, it has granted some additional development to the USMNT players and allowed manager Gregg Berhalter to figure out who deserves a call-up.

The USMNT released their roster on May 24th as two Americans are preparing to play in the Champions League Final on Saturday. America’s #10 Christian Pulisic will likely see the field for Chelsea, while goalkeeper Zack Steffen will be on the bench for Manchester City. Regardless, an American will be lifting the Champions League trophy by the end of the night, and that is something to be excited about!

To put it mildly, we are likely entering the golden era of U.S. soccer. The USMNT has loads of players in Europe, the squad is young and full of potential, and Berhalter was able to bring all his top guys to the CONCACAF Nations League. With World Cup qualification still coming, plus the Gold Cup, we’ll learn a lot about this squad in the next week.

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The 23 Man Squad

For starters, let’s look at who’s making the trip. The aforementioned Pulisic will join the squad after not playing in several of the Europe friendlies earlier in the year. Young European stars Weston McKennie, Gio Reyna, and Sergiño Dest will also headline for the Americans. Deandre Yedlin is back in the squad but will be behind Dest at right back for the foreseeable future. Veteran center-backs Matt Miazga, John Brooks, and Tim Ream will anchor the backline, while youngster Mark McKenzie might see some action in the back. Attackers Jackson Yueill, Jordan Siebatcheu, and Brenden Aaronson provide depth, with Aaronson likely being the only of the additions to see the field next weekend. And finally, Tim Weah is back in the squad for the U.S., and, well, I’m excited he’s back.

Notable Snubs

I was surprised to see that Bayern loanee Chris Richards did not make the squad. I really rate him, and he and McKenzie are likely the center-back pairing of the future for the United States. Other notable absences include upfront where Barnsley F.C. center forward Daryl Dike and Schalke 04 forward Matthew Hoppe were not added to the roster sheet. Granted, both are young and have had superb seasons, but if they were fielded and someone like Weah or Siebatcheu was cut, I’d probably be complaining about that too. It just goes to show the incredible depth and young potential this team has!

Expected Starting XI

While Berhalter experimented with a 3-4-3 formation earlier this year, expect him to revert back to his traditional 4-3-3. Steffen will be between the posts with Miazga and Brooks as the pair of center-backs, but Ream could also see some run. Fulham defender Antonee Robinson will slide in at left back and Dest will play on the right.

Adams and McKennie will play as a double pivot in the midfield, with the latter pushing up higher as the attack progresses. Valencia youngster Yunus Musah will likely play as the CAM (central attacking midfielder) but don’t be surprised if Reyna fills this role and Musah slides out right.

Pulisic will play on the left – or the right – wherever he wants, quite frankly. But now for the one debate in the starting XI: Striker. Right now, I think Josh Sargent starts as the #9 against Honduras, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Reyna or Pulisic gets some run as a false nine and Aaronson comes in to the attack. Berhalter has a ton of options and while I’d certainly like to see him mix it up in the future, securing his first trophy with the USMNT, especially here in the CONCACAF Nations League, is the paramount concern.

New CONCACAF Qualifying Format

Tournament Prediction

The USMNT should win this tournament. Plain and simple. This squad is too talented, and the failure to qualify for the Olympics just a few months ago should serve as extra motivation next week. The United States needs to make a statement and this would be the first stage to do it. It’s been an unfortunate string of events for the men’s soccer team over the past couple of years, and no matter how bright the future may be, a trophy shows results and this one is desperately needed.

Semfinal 1: United States 4 – Honduras 1.

Semfinal 2: Mexico 2 – Costa Rica 0.

Final: United States 2 – Mexico 1.

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