The USMNT is going to the World Cup in Qatar in November, if only just.
Gregg Berhalter’s men certainly made a tough job of qualifying, and it wasn’t always pretty – a defeat at the hands of Panama and a draw against El Salvador were particular low points – but the team did enough, and that’s what counts.
Nonetheless, Berhalter now has the tough job of preparing what is arguably the most talented squad in generations for the grand stage in Qatar. And at the top of his to-do list will be to whittle down a very long list of players to 23. It won’t be easy.
Berhalter has given caps to no fewer than 91 players in the last 12 months, meaning that around 75% of those who have played for the national team in recent months are going to receive a disappointing phone call pre-tournament.
USMNT Should Be Looking to Build
Of course, let’s be frank about it: It’s unlikely the USMNT will win the thing. Sportsbooks’ football odds give the USA a price of around 80/1 (+8000) to go all the way in Qatar. It’s not miracle territory, but it’s perhaps in the region of a minor miracle. Still, this World Cup is an important one for a couple of reasons, most notably that Berhalter must start getting a tune out of the young talent at his disposal. While the team will be going to win, there is also a sense of building for 2026 for a “home” World Cup when many of these young players should be at their peak.
But as for FC Dallas players, who will be on the plane to Qatar next November? It’s not easy to guess what Berhalter’s pans will be, but you have to imagine that both Paul Arriola and Jesus Ferreira will be on his mind. The FC Dallas forwards but on an impressive display in the penultimate qualifying game, both of them finding the net in the 5-1 victory over Panama.
Most notably, the link-up play between the two men was excellent.
Post-game, Ferreira said: “I think the chemistry between Paul, it shows. We’ve been doing it before, and once he came into Dallas, it got even better. We practice the pressing all the time, so it made it easier to have someone that you can trust and that gets your back. I’m excited to share the field, and I know every time we’re there together, we’ll do a good job.”
Likely That Dallas Players Will Be On the Plane
While it’s always better to have national team players who know each other well – think of the great Spanish sides in recent times built with a backbone of Real Madrid and Barcelona players – the problem for the FC Dallas pair is the amount of attacking talent at Berhalter’s disposal. The likes of Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Gio Reyna, and Timothy Weah are all ahead of the pair in the pecking order. A recent SI.com article listed that quartet in its “locks” for the World Cup squad.
But the good news is that most pundits think at least one of Arriola and Ferreira will go to the World Cup, with many thinking Berhalter should take both. They offer something different from those players mentioned above, and one might argue that they have performed better for the USMNT than they have for their club. Neither is guaranteed to start, but Berhalter seems to trust in their talent.
As for other formerly-capped FC Dallas players like Matt Hedges and Paxton Pomykal, their chances seem remote. But in all likelihood, we are going to see Dallas players in Qatar.
Let’s hope they give us something to cheer about.
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