Potential USMNT 2022 World Cup Starting 11
The 2018 World Cup was weird for me. On one hand, it was incredibly exciting. Russia started things off by scoring five goals against Saudi Arabia in the first game. Ronaldo put three goals past David De Gea when Portugal played Spain. Then we saw Germany (the favorites and team I picked to win it all) not even make it out of the group stage. Then in the knockout stage, Ronaldo and Messi were eliminated just mere hours apart after they landed on the same side of the bracket and would have faced off in the quarter-finals if both Portugal and Argentina won. England finally won a game that went penalty kicks. Croatia shocked the world and made it all the way to final before running into a very good and young French team that looks poised to dominate international soccer for the foreseeable future.
Despite these and several other great moments from this World Cup, this World Cup just wasn’t the same as the past several tournaments. And the reason for that is simple: the US wasn’t in it. With this event only happening every four years, it’s depressing when your team doesn’t go. With the regular names that were in the starting 11 getting older, it’s time for the next generation to take over. While this next generation of players looks very promising, nearly everyone I’ll mention is still very young and only time will tell if they can live up to their full potential. With that being said though, let’s take a look at what a potential starting 11 for the US in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar!
Goalie: Zack Steffen
The former U-20 GK announced himself on the national stage by making some spectacular saves in France against France in a friendly in a final tune-up for the French side. Still only 23, he will be in the middle of his prime by the time 2022 rolls around. Even with several other young goalies making their way up to the senior team, Steffen appears to be the first team choice right now.
Defense: DeAndre Yedlin, John Brooks, Matt Miazga, Fabian Johnson
While the names might change, three of the four positions in the backline have multiple options, all of which have very bright futures. The only way I don’t see DeAndre Yedlin being the starting right back going forward is if whoever manages the USMNT next wants to move him up the field (which might not be a bad idea, given his speed and other potential right back options).
There are several up-and-coming options at center back for the US moving forward, but the #1 option will be John Brooks. The Wolfsburg defender is still only 25 years old, but has dealt with his fair share of injuries. Still, when healthy, he’s shown signs that he could be a world-class center back.
The US need to find someone to pair with Brook in the heart of the defense (something that they didn’t find in qualification), and there are some good options. But the man I expect to fill that role is Matt Miazga. The 22-year-old has been on loan from his parent club Chelsea the last few years, but has gained some valuable playing time and experience away from London. If he continues to develop the way he has so far, him and Brooks will form a very solid pairing center back pairing for years to come.
As of right now, 10 of the 11 positions going forward for the US have many options, and some have the potential to be world-class. However, left back isn’t one of them. And as of right now, whoever ends up playing left back will probably be someone playing out of position. However, Fabian Johnson has experience at left back, and even though he will be 34 by the start of the next World Cup, I think he will be the best option at left back. While Johnson is more of a left midfielder, DaMarcus Beasley was in a very similar position in 2014 to what Johnson could face in 2022. Both are primary left midfielders who can play that left back spot. In 2014, there wasn’t any clear options for left back, so Klinsmann went with the best player who could play left back. Whoever coaches the US in 2022 could do the same thing.
Midfield: Kellyn Acosta, Tyler Adams, Weston McKinnie, Christian Pulisic
One change I expect for the USMNT to make is a change of formation. For the most part, the US plays a flat 4-4-2. But going forward, I expect the midfield to turn into a diamond, with the wide midfielders turning into a hold and an attacking midfield.
The first player I expect to be in this midfield is Kellyn Acosta. Acosta started breaking into the first team last summer. He will be 27 when the next World Cup starts and even though some other midfielders might be better than him in 2022, a slight change in formation will allow the best players to be on the field for the US.
Tyler Adams is set to be the latest young American to head to the Bundesliga, as he’s reportedly moving from the New York Red Bulls to RB Leipzig at the end of this current MLS season. Adams can play just about anywhere on the field, but appears best suited for a midfield role. And at just 19, he could be entering his prime in 2022.
Weston McKinnie is a player that has the potential to be apart of the USMNT for the next 10+ years. He won’t be 20 until late August, and he’s already getting some first team minutes for FC Schalke in Germany. If he continues this pace of development, the sky’s the limit for this kid.
Any of these guys I just listed could play in that holding midfield spot in a diamond midfield (I think Acosta will fill that role), but the next player is the only one who can play that attacking midfield position. And it is none other than Christian Pulisic. Still only 19, the Borussia Dortmund winger can play that attacking midfield role. And at least with the US, Pulisic has played best when he’s creating chances from the middle of the field and has the freedom drift out wide. He is also the player I expect to be the next captain, assuming Michael Bradley isn’t around in 2022.
Forwards: Josh Stargent, Timothy Weah
Stargent has impressed at every youth level he’s been at for both club and country, and is looking to impress now that he’s with the first team Werder Bremen. Only 18 and how he’s moved up so far, he could be the latest young American to make a name for himself in Germany.
The son of the 1995 Ballon d’Or winner made a name for himself with an impressive U-17 World Cup. Like Stargent, he’s already 18 and with his club’s first team (Paris Saint-Germain). Unlike Stargent though, PSG is a much different club than Werder Bremen, and it will be much harder for him to break into PSG’s regular first team than it will be for Stargent to break into Werder Bremen’s regular first team. But he oozes potential, and I think he’ll be a regular first team striker for the US for years to come.
Others that could start:
Goalie Jonathan Klinsmann is only 20 and is rapidly working his way up through both club and national team ranks. He appears to be Steffen’s biggest competition for first team goalie.
Cameron-Carter Vickers is another young defender who’s had success on loan from his Premier league giant parent. Still only 20 and with Tottenham having solid options at center back, he could force them to recall him this year if he continues to perform with Sheffield United.
Paul Arriola is a wide midfielder who has had some success with the national team in his few appearances so far. And while others might be better than him in 2022, he’d fit the more traditional 4-4-2 flat if the US continue to lineup that way.
Jordan Morris seemed to be the next great American striker. While he hasn’t grown quite the way people thought he would, he’s still only 23 and the other options at striker could still be a little young.
Julian Green has also seemed to have gotten lost in the mix as others have started to get talked about. But he’s still only 22 and did score at the 2014 World Cup. It’s not crazy to think he could still be a mainstay for the US for years to come.