USMNT World Cup Group Stage Outlook


Cal L'Hommedieu '23

In the last two years, United States Men’s National Team manager Gregg Berhalter has had his hands full figuring out the ideal 11 men to put on the pitch at the 2022 World Cup. All kinds of records are being broken In American soccer right now as more players are reaching the upper echelons of European football and making a mark on the biggest stages. Berhalter has had a very difficult time deciding which players he likes most. This has led to a different team shape in almost every game we play. Positions like striker and centerback have seen 4-5 players try with no clear favorite. There is no doubt that the 26 players in the World Cup squad are the most talented the country has ever had, but do they have the chemistry to make it happen against the world’s best?

The USA starts the controversial 2022 Qatar World Cup against FIFA No. 19, Wales, a side who qualified for their first World Cup since 1958. The squad is led by veteran winger Gareth Bale (LAFC), who leads Wales all-time in scoring. Bale is supported by quick youngsters like Daniel James (Fulham) and Kieffer Moore (Bournemouth). These talented young players will be a challenge for the USA’s defense which has been questionable leading up to this competition. Most of Wales’ squad plays in the first or second tier of English Football which are widely regarded among the hardest leagues in the world. This will be a thrilling up-and-down match between two teams who like to be on the attack. The USA will be eager to maintain possession and put pressure on Wales’ back-line which has faltered against good opponents.

The second match in the group is against world powerhouse and FIFA No. 5, England. England recently blazed through Euro 2020 before losing to Italy in the final. The team is filled with players at the best clubs in the world who dominate club football. One of England’s biggest strengths is their depth in every position. Their 3rd option at a certain position is still the best, or near-best, player at their club. Depth is extremely important in international football and will give England a big advantage in this competition. The match is the most anticipated since the 2014 World Cup Round of 16 match against Belgium. England will be led by forward Harry Kane (Tottenham) who is an all-around finisher and will create massive problems for the USA defense. USA will also struggle to create quality chances against England as they are so well-rounded defensively. A lot of England’s success will also depend on goalkeeper Jordan Pickford (Everton), who always steps up a level in big matches. USA will be a heavy underdog in this match, but a win or draw would put us in a very good position to move on in the group.

After England, USA plays FIFA ranking No. 20, Iran. Due to Iran playing in the Asian Football Confederation, they do not get as much media coverage as teams in CONCACAF (North and Central America), UEFA (Europe), or CONMEBOL (South America). This game could be the decider for which two of the four teams in our group make it through. It will be a very tough match as Iran plays good team football and are often able to squeeze out results against some of the strongest teams in the world. Iran is led by skillful European star, Medhi Taremi (FC Porto). Iran is the weakest opponent in the group and a must-win for team USA if they want to move on.

This young USA squad will need to rise to their highest level yet to make it out of the group. The World Cup gives little room for error and it only comes once every four years. The stakes couldn’t be higher and this team is very hungry to prove how good American football can be.