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USMNT World Cup Prediction: Staff picks for 26-man roster

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The United States men’s national team‘s opening game of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar is Nov. 21 against Wales, but the roster reveal is even closer. On Wednesday, Gregg Berhalter will name his 26-man squad for the tournament, and there are sure to be snubs and surprises.

In anticipation of the full roster release, we asked our staff of writers here at FOX Sports — Laken Litman, Doug McIntyre and Martin Rogers — to make educated guesses as to who will be on the plane to Qatar later this month. 

While there we no disagreements at the top with players suc as Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams, things got interesting on the roster’s fringes, particularly at the striker position.

[USMNT World Cup roster prediction: Alexi Lalas picks his 26-man roster]

Let’s get into it.

CONSENSUS PICKS (22)

Goalkeepers (3): Sean Johnson, Zack Steffen, Matt Turner

Full backs (5): Reggie Cannon, Sergiño Dest, Antonee Robinson, Joe Scally, DeAndre Yedlin

Center backs (4): Cameron Carter-Vickers, Aaron Long, Mark McKenzie, Walker Zimmerman 

Midfielders (4): Kellyn Acosta, Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, Yunus Musah 

Wingers (5): Paul Arriola, Brenden Aaronson, Christian Pulisic, Giovanni Reyna, Tim Weah

Strikers (1): Jesús Ferreira

LAKEN’S PICKS

Chris Richards (CB), Luca de la Torre (MF), Malik Tillman (MF), Josh Sargent (ST)

The striker spot is a tricky one. Berhalter was criticized for excluding Jordan Pefok prior to the last window that included friendlies against Japan and Saudi Arabia. Pefok won the Golden Boot in the Swiss League last year and had been a top scorer for Union Berlin. But he hasn’t scored in the past eight games. 

Even though Sargent recently injured his calf, he has been a solid contributor for Norwich City and scored eight goals in 17 games this season, so he gets the nod here.

DOUG’S PICKS

Malik Tillman (MF), Jordan Morris (RW), Ricardo Pepi (ST), Josh Sargent (ST)

The fact that Aaronson, Pulisic and Reyna can also be deployed as central attacking midfielders opens the door for two more wide players: the defensively sound longtime national teamers Arriola and Morris.

McKennie should be healthy by the time camp opens in Qatar; only an unexpected setback will keep the surefire starter home. Injured Luca de la Torre would be here if healthy, but his recovery timeline takes him all the way to the Americans Nov. 21 opener vs. Wales. Tillman, playing regularly in Scotland and in the Champions League, claims the final spot ahead of Cristian Roldan.

[USMNT Stock Watch: McKennie injury puts pressure on midfield reserves]

Pepi has been prolific since arriving in the Netherlands; he and Ferreira were both regulars throughout World Cup qualifying. Sargent is tied for second in scoring in England’s Championship and is expected to be over his calf injury in time. 

Pefok wasn’t a lock for Berhalter even when he was knocking in goals in Germany. He’s now mired in a scoring drought that seals his fate. 

MARTIN’S PICKS

Luca de la Torre (MF), Jordan Morris (RW), Ricardo Pepi (ST), Jordan Pefok (ST)

With Sargent struggling with recent injury, Pefok makes it despite patchy recent form. And de la Torre gets the nod from Berhalter despite his own injury problems, the coach perhaps reasoning that his energetic impact could be useful toward the end of the group stage, or beyond.

Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and soccer for FOX Sports. She previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of “Strong Like a Woman,” published in spring 2022 to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @LakenLitman.

Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has covered United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter. 


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