USMNT’S WORLD CUP SQUAD LADDER: Who’s on the plane to Qatar?

With just under a month to go until the United States Men’s National Team releases its roster for the 2022 World Cup, it’s important to establish where each of those players are in the hierarchy.

There are players who have been constantly fighting for a spot. There are those who are locks for the plane. There are those who have been given a number of chances, but haven’t been able to be consistent. 

All in all, this will serve as a baseline for where the players on the USMNT roster currently stand. 

This isn’t an indicator of how good players are for their club, nor is it an indicator of where people are guaranteed to be in the hierarchy. It’s more of an idea of who Gregg Berhalter will take.

This is a way for those to understand where the USA stands ahead of matches in the group stage against a tough bunch of squads, including England, Iran, and Wales. 

The USMNT under Gregg Berhalter (foreground) has a lot of work ahead of the World Cup

In the last matches before Qatar, the US lost to Japan & embarrassingly drew with Saudi Arabia

After a disappointing showing in September, can the USMNT pull it together at the World Cup?

1. Tyler Adams

While there will be a good debate over whether or not Adams is better than Pulisic, it’s not a debate over which of the two has done a better job of what’s being asked of them. Adams is possibly the best leader on this team, he’s crucial to the attacking buildup, and he keeps the defense in line. His ticket to Qatar should be the first one booked.

2. Christian Pulisic

While he is a dynamic player on offense, Pulisic’s job is to be a goal scoring option. He hasn’t scored a goal since a friendly win over Morocco. Pulisic can be forgiven seeing as his mojo is off with a lack of playing time at Chelsea, but that means he won’t be taking the top spot. 

3. Weston McKennie

Despite a few mistakes in the most recent games, there is no better box-to-box option in the USMNT pool than Weston McKennie. He’s as critical to the team as the two players ahead of him and should start every game at the World Cup barring anything unforeseen.  

Weston McKennie has an undeniable impact on game and should start every match in Qatar

4. Walker Zimmerman

As far as starting center backs go, Walker Zimmerman has handled the loss of his typical partner very well. With Miles Robinson injured, Zimmerman has worked alongside a number of different players at left center back. You can debate whether or not that experimentation has worked, but Zimmerman has remained a rock.

5. Yunus Musah

The Saudi Arabia and Japan matches proved how important the Valencia youngster is to the USA’s system. Once he’s back and healthy, he should be starting in the midfield again. 

6. Jesus Ferreira

While the striker position has been the most scrutinized, Ferreira is – as of now – the clearest option up front. He’s scored the most goals with the national team this year and finished top-five in scoring this past MLS season. Ferreira should start for the first game, though other options mentioned below need to be utilized. 

7. Sergino Dest

He’ll get the start at right back, but his use at the left hasn’t been as stellar. That’s more of a Berhalter problem than it is Dest’s, so when all the defense gets back and healthy, we should see the AC Milan starlet in use in his natural position. 

Sergino Dest is the clear cut starter for the USMNT at right back going into the games in Qatar 

8. Matt Turner

After earning the start for the CONCACAF Gold Cup and leading the USMNT to the title, there hasn’t been much of a debate as to who should start between the posts at the World Cup. Turner has reinforced that with great cup performances for Arsenal and solidified his spot as the No. 1 keeper for the United States. 

9. Antonee ‘Jedi’ Robinson

He’s been injured, but he’s been integral for Fulham when he’s been playing and is the undisputed starter at left back for the USMNT. While we saw Dest being deputized at left back in his absence, it’s clear that Jedi is the first-choice option here. 

10. Brenden Aaronson

While it’s smart to start Aaronson, the question becomes where should he be put on the field. Seeing as he’s done very well with Jesse Marsch in a more advanced position, Aaronson starting at right wing makes perfect sense. 

Using Brenden Aaronson at right wing would be a great way to get him into the starting XI

11. Aaron Long

Is Long truly the second best center back on this list? It’s tough to say, but were it not for injuries to one specific player at No. 35 further down this list, Long might be at the edges of this team. However, Berhalter seems convinced that he’s the perfect compliment to Zimmerman in this starting lineup. 

12. Kellyn Acosta

While there are other midfielders that will probably be starting ahead of Acosta, it’s likely he’d be the first substitute on the field. But if there’s someone in the midfield in need of rest, expect Acosta to start and fill their role. 

13. Gio Reyna

He left the match against Saudi Arabia as a preventative measure with an issue in his leg, but it didn’t seem to be too major of a problem. Reyna was back playing for Dortmund in their mid-week game against Sevilla in the Champions League last week. 

14. Ricardo Pepi

He may finally be scoring for Groningen, but he hasn’t done anything for the United States since 2021. Berhalter seems insistent that Pepi gets as many chances as possible. That could be due to a perceived sense of guilt at helping Pepi move to Augsburg, where he failed to impress. 

At this rate, despite the evidence proving he shouldn’t be there, it seems like he’ll be going to Qatar anyways. He won’t be starting considering Ferreira has taken the lead in the American No. 9 race. 

Pepi is a good player, no doubt. But the spot he currently has in the team should go to someone like Pefok who has been performing more consistently at a higher level.

Even though his goal output has dropped, Berhalter seems to favor forward Ricardo Pepi

15. Jordan Morris

Is Morris a starter on this USMNT team? No. Is he an important presence off the bench? Yes. Berhalter has turned to Morris numerous times off the bench and he’s done pretty well for himself in those moments.

Even though his goal production both in Seattle and on this team is down, Morris should be considered safe for the World Cup. He brings a good veteran presence on what will most likely be the youngest team going to Qatar.

16. Luca de la Torre

LDLT has had four starts for the United States this year, but he’s yet to make a start for his club team, Celta Vigo. At the end of the day, considering players like Acosta have more starts and more appearances, it feels that De la Torre hasn’t made enough of an impression to make the team to crack a starting lineup.

That being said, Berhalter seems comfortable with using him off the bench, so his ticket to Qatar seems to have been booked already. 

17. Reggie Cannon

The Boavista right back may be fighting with Dest for a starting job, but it’s not likely that him losing out to the Milan defender will cost him a trip to Qatar. Even with other competitors on this list, Cannon is good enough in his own right that he’ll be on the flight. 

18. Cameron Carter-Vickers 

CCV has done very well for Celtic this season, but unfortunately, he’s right footed and that spot is occupied by Zimmerman. However, if something terrible happened to Zimmerman, Carter-Vickers could easily step into his role and start for the USMNT. 

Cameron Carter-Vickers (20) has done well this season with Celtic, earning a spot on the plane

19. Joe Scally

Scally’s performance off the bench against Saudi Arabia was one of the few bright spots from that match. It should be enough for him to be able to start packing bags for Qatar. His run of form with Monchengladbach has been great as well and he’ll be great as an option off the bench – or possibly as a starter if Jedi can’t go. 

20. DeAndre Yedlin

In speaking of veteran presence on the youngest team going to Qatar, DeAndre Yedlin has had a good season with Inter Miami and helped them reach the playoffs. 

He’s probably lost a starting spot from the last World Cup to Dest, but Yedlin will most likely get a lot of use as a substitute. 

21. Zack Steffen

While Steffen has had some bright spots for the United States, he hasn’t had the impact at club level he may have wanted. Over two seasons, he made only 21 appearances for Manchester City. 

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Now on loan at EFL Championship side Middlesbrough, and the team is sitting 22nd out of 24 in the league.

That being said, Steffen had some great years before being passed for the starting job by Matt Turner. He’ll be a part of the roster and the goalkeeping unit going to Qatar. 

22. Mark McKenzie 

Considering how rocky the defense has been, adding a fourth center back isn’t a bad idea. McKenzie has been a reliable bench option, though his performance in Saudi Arabia neither harmed nor helped his standing within the team. 

As the defensive corps struggles with fitness, Mark McKenzie could see use off the bench

23. Paul Arriola 

He didn’t exactly impress in his last appearance with the national team, but he didn’t perform so bad that he should be considered out of the team. Much like Morris, Arriola has been a good option off the bench. 

Arriola hasn’t had a banner season in Dallas, but he’s done well enough to warrant looks. It’s hard to imagine him breaking into the starting roster, but not out of the question.

24. Timothy Weah

Yes, he is injured and has been injured for a while. But, that doesn’t mean he’s out of the roster. When healthy, Weah is dynamic off the bench and in the starting lineup. However, due to the injury, maybe it’s a little too early to say he’ll be a starter.

25. Malik Tillman

Since moving from Bayern Munich’s youth team to Rangers, Tillman has impressed for the Scottish side bagging three goals and two assists in 15 games – including a goal this weekend against Motherwell.

He hasn’t had a lot of time with the national team, but at club level, he’s been playing like he deserves a roster spot.  

A goal at Motherwell this weekend was the third of the season for the USMNT’s Malik Tillman

26. Ethan Horvath

With Horvath in net for all 14 league games, Luton Town is sitting seventh in the Championship. He was initially much lower on this list, but Horvath might be the most in-form American goalkeeper in Europe right now.

He got some run most recently in the CONCACAF Nations League match against El Salvador, so he’s played recently enough to warrant a spot on the flight to Qatar. 

27. Jordan Pefok

He’s one of the best goal scorers in the Bundesliga and sits fifth in total assists this year – adding one this weekend in Union Berlin’s 2-0 win over Borussia Dortmund.

Pefok has had a great 2022 and deserves more looks from Berhalter. But for some reason, all he’s had so far is an appearance against Mexico. He’s more than deserving of a spot on the plane to Qatar, but whether or not he’ll get there is another question.

American fans have been clamoring for Pefok to break into the team and they were in an uproar when he was left out of the most recent camp. While we can debate whether or not he should be going, as of now, it seems he isn’t favored.

Despite brilliant displays at Union Berlin, Jordan Pefok hasn’t gotten much run with the USMNT

27. Chris Richards

Despite his lack of playing time with Crystal Palace, Richards will still be in consideration for the trip to Qatar, but will just miss out. 

After starting a few World Cup qualifiers, he’s been used off the bench sparingly. But, with Berhalter pretty much sticking to his main CB pairing of Long and Zimmerman, it’s hard to see him turning to Richards after not using him for the past few camps. 

29. Johnny  

Johnny is a great young player and he’ll be a great one to keep an eye on as he develops further at Internacional of Brazil. He needs more run with the USMNT if he hopes to crack the roster, but by the time the 2026 World Cup rolls around, he should be here. 

30. Sam Vines

This past international trip was the true chance for Vines to prove he deserved a squad spot after flirting with the outskirts of the team.

Unfortunately, a lackluster performance against Japan – and a great performance from position competitor Scally – means he will most likely be absent from the team come Qatar. He has great potential on defense and it’ll be interesting to see how he’ll do with more time at Antwerp.

31. Josh Sargent

Simply put, while Sargent is doing well now, he hasn’t had nearly enough time with the team to warrant a spot on the trip. 

Sargent scored only two goals in the Premier League with bottom feeders Norwich City last year, but has found goals in the Championship – scoring eight so far. 

It may be too late for Josh Sargent, who got his only minutes with the USMNT this year recently

32. Cristian Roldan 

Cristian Roldan is a solid bench option, but on a team that’s as set in the midfield as this one, Roldan is unlikely to make the roster. If he does, he’ll have earned it through his great play off the bench for the USMNT and starting for Seattle. 

But considering how deep the pool is for the midfield – and Berhalter’s tendency to go with the younger players – Roldan is set to miss the plane ride. 

33. Erick Palmer-Brown

While EPB has been selected for a number of trips to the bench, at the end of the day, he hasn’t been used nearly enough to warrant a roster spot. The last time he touched the field for the US was back in June against Uruguay. 

He’s been consistently passed over for substitute appearances by players like Carter-Vickers and McKenzie, which means he likely won’t make the trip.

34. Sean Johnson

Johnson has had more selections as a backup keeper option for the USMNT and even had a start more recently than Steffen has. 

However, that may have come a little too late, and it could mean Johnson stays home – despite another great club season for NYCFC.

35. Miles Robinson 

Do not take this as a sign that Robinson deserves to be here. If Miles was healthy, he’d be top-ten on this list and probably top-five.

He’d be a sure fire starter with a passport stamped for Qatar had his Achilles tendon given out on him. USMNT fans look forward to the day he returns to this team. 

If it weren’t for an injury, Miles Robinson (center) would be a lock for the plane to Qatar

36. Djordje Mihailovic

This situation is similar to Sargent, where Mihailovic has done well for Montreal lately, but hasn’t had nearly enough time to make an impression on the national team.

37. Haji Wright 

Wright is a great goal scorer, but he hasn’t exactly found a way into the national team. 

With all the current problems and controversies surrounding the No. 9 position within this USMNT roster, adding Wright to the mix won’t be helpful. But considering how little time he’s had, that’s not likely to happen. 

38. Gianluca Busio

While Busio has become something of a staple at Serie B side Venezia, he hasn’t made an appearance for the USMNT since November 2021. Even back when Venezia was in Serie A during the 2022 season, Berhalter chose other midfielders ahead of him. Busio is only 20 years old though, so he has plenty of time to work his way back. 

Gianluca Busio has plenty of time to develop to make the USMNT’s next World Cup roster

39. Gaga Slonina

Slonina is a great keeper and an amazing young talent. He has a lot of development to do, but could be a lock for the roster come 2026 if all goes well. For now, he can take time to develop with Chelsea and will get his time with the USMNT eventually.

40. Sebastian Lletget

Lletget has great veteran presence in the locker room, but there are so many better midfielders in front of him that it won’t be needed for Qatar. 

You can make the argument that he probably would have made the 2018 roster had the US qualified. But it’s probably safe to say his chance at a World Cup has come and gone. 

Sebastian Lletget will most likely be overlooked by Berhalter ahead of this World Cup cycle


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