So, What’s Next For the USMNT?
Two big questions for the team's future
After an eight-year absence, the USMNT returned to the World Cup this year and, just as they had in 2010 and 2014, they advanced out of the group stage. That’s the good news. The bad news is that, as was the case in those years, they made it as far as the Round of 16 before being eliminated, with Louis van Gaal coaching the Netherlands to a victory this year over the Gregg Berhalter-coached U.S.
Writing at Defector, Ray Ratto memorably (and accurately) summarized the USMNT’s performance. “They neither overwhelmed nor underwhelmed — indeed, they whelmed the hell out of a tournament where whelmage was the best they could hope for,” he wrote. But, as the saying goes, there are plenty of lingering questions as the USMNT sets its sights on the 2026 World Cup. Two big ones come to mind:
Who’s going to be coaching the team? This is the big one. Gregg Berhalter’s contract is, according to reports, through the end of this World Cup. The USMNT has had coaches hired for multiple World Cup cycles before — notably, Jürgen Klinsmann had his contract extended months before the 2014 World Cup began — but you may recall that that didn’t work out terribly well for anyone involved.
If Berhalter isn’t coming back — well, the question of who might follow him is the kind of thing that can easily provoke soccer fans into an immediately-agitated state. If the U.S. Soccer Federation is determined that the next coach be American, the pool of potential hires doesn’t seem too large.
The Guardian described this year’s MLS Cup final as a battle of two coaches who could potentially succeed Berhalter — the Philadelphia Union’s Jim Curtin and LAFC’s Steve Cherundolo. Leeds United’s Jesse Marsch is another name that comes up a lot — but it’s unclear if he’s even interested. (For the record, I’m also not sure that the high-pressing style Marsch favors is necessarily ideal for the USMNT’s pool of players — but that’s a whole other debate.)
If the USSF takes a look at the full array of coaches available to them, that pool opens up dramatically. And the prospect of, say, Roberto Martinez coaching the USMNT in the next cycle is certainly intriguing.
What’s the attack going to look like? The USMNT played four games this World Cup. They scored all of three goals in that time. And while some high-profile attacking players were used sparingly (Gio Reyna) and some weren’t at Qatar at all (Jordan Pefok), that dearth of goals still speaks to something off-balance about this team as it is.
That’s not to say that developing a great striker would pave the way to a World Cup final. After all, Poland has Robert Lewandowski, one of the best attacking players of his generation, playing for them, and they exited the World Cup a day after the U.S. But there’s serious room for improvement here.
There are some lingering questions at other positions as well — notably, at center back, where several players in the pool were affected by injuries in the months leading up to the World Cup. (The team’s depth is also a concern.) The next CONCACAF Gold Cup kicks off in June of 2023. That’ll be this team’s first big test in the aftermath of the 2022 World Cup. It won’t be the last.
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