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Sorting the CONCACAF nations on the road to Qatar 2022

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The United States men’s national team picked up a feel-good win over Mexico on Tuesday in Nashville, and there’s no reason to feel bad about enjoying the win.

Yet as general manager Earnie Stewart sorts through his options regarding the next full-time coach of the USMNT, where do the Yanks sit in the race to qualify for Qatar 2022?

[ MORE USMNT-MEXICO: 3 things | Player ratings ]

Yes, the World Cup is still going to Qatar. Yes, the games will be played in December in the middle of the night local time. Had to be said, again.

First and foremost, assuming the World Cup stays at 32 teams in the 3+1 CONCACAF qualifying format, who are the front-runners to make the Hex?

Let’s say the chalk plays out through qualifying and these 12 teams make the fourth round of qualifying. Since the Hex began for the 1998 cycle, the following nations have participated: USMNT (all), Mexico (all), Costa Rica (all), Honduras (4), Trinidad and Tobago (4), Panama (3), Jamaica (3), El Salvador (2), Guatemala (2006), Canada (1998).

[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League picks ]

We still don’t know which U-20 sides will qualify for next summer’s U-20 World Cup — qualifying is in November — but the U.S. won the CONCACAF U-20 title in 2017, with Mexico winning the previous three, and Costa Rica before that. Panama were runners-up in 2015, so it’s a pretty good predictor of the pipeline.

Here are the current Elo Ratings and FIFA world rankings for CONCACAF sides:

Mexico — Elo 20, FIFA 16
USMNT — Elo 26, FIFA 22
Costa Rica — Elo 43, FIFA 32
Honduras — Elo 58, FIFA 61
Panama — Elo 63, FIFA 69
Jamaica — Elo 67, FIFA 54
Canada — Elo 73, FIFA 79
Guatemala — Elo 80, FIFA 146
Haiti — Elo 84, FIFA 104
El Salvador — Elo 87, FIFA 72
Trinidad and Tobago — Elo 96, FIFA 91
Curacao — Elo 132, FIFA 81

For now, we will only rank the sides who have qualified to a prior Hex, though Haiti has a chance to impress us and join in the next power rankings some time in the future.

Long shots: El Salvador, Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica

Hex candidates: Panama, Canada, Honduras

Yes, Panama qualified for the World Cup, but it happened via a goal that never crossed the line and the poor performances of an American team that rarely showed up to work and a Honduran team which just couldn’t pull it together. Still, it’s best player at the World Cup were young: Ricardo Avila (21), Yoel Barcenas (24), and Jose Luis Rodriquez (20). Need to figure out life post-Felipe Baloy, Blas Perez, and (probably) Jaime Penedo.

Honduras is going to be in the discussion due to home field advantage alone. Even when Los Catrachos aren’t shining at San Pedro Sula, they are a handful. A bit longer in the tooth than you’d like for a tournament run, young forward Alberth Elis has to join Romell Quioto, Bryan Acosta, and Anthony Lozano in taking the next step.

The wild card here is Canada, which remains a green project and has new leadership in former WNT coach John Herdman. He will have a trio of teens at significant clubs when Alphonso Davies leaves Vancouver for Bayern Munich, joining Jonathan David at Gent and Liam Millar at Liverpool (Alessandro Busti is with Juventus B and Zahcary Brault-Guilard, Lyon). TFC’s Jonathan Osorio is in his prime, Cyle Larin isn’t there yet, and goalkeeper Milan Borjan starts on Red Star Belgrade.

Hex participants: Costa Rica, USMNT

Let’s start with the one of the bunch which played in the World Cup; Costa Rica is a difficult team to read. It will qualify for the Hex because it’s never failed to and it won’t be too old… yet. Of the 13 players to play more than 100 minutes for Los Ticos at the World Cup, only Joel Campbell and Francisco Calvo (both 26) were under the age of 28. All five players who manned all 270 minutes of the World Cup were 30 or older.

The reason the United States men’s national team’s failure to qualify for Russia was considered a disaster is that the Yanks should never, ever, ever miss a World Cup given their talent and resources. Even with Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore getting on in years for their respective positions, the new manager could instantly trot out this lineup in CONCACAF and not worry about experience or age (at least not too much, and we’re not yet including Geoff Cameron):

Steffen

Yedlin — Miazga — Brooks — Lichaj

Adams — D. Williams — McKennie

Pulisic — Altidore — Wood

Subs: Guzan, Acosta, Weah, Green, Bradley, Ream, Sargent

The unquestioned No. 1: Mexico

Sure the U.S. was missing big names Pulisic, Brooks, Cameron, Bradley, and Altidore in the 1-0 win over Mexico, but El Tri was without a whole lot more. Andres Guardado, Hector Herrera, Diego Reyes, Miguel Layun, Hector Moreno, Raul Jimenez, Carls Vela, Hirving Lozano, Chicharito (I’m just gonna stop now).

Mexico’s very best players are playing for some of the best clubs in the world, and Liga MX is still plenty ahead of MLS in depth and churning out youngsters.

USA’s star trio align for USMNT v England

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LONDON — Christian Pulisic. Weston McKennie. Tyler Adams.

Those three U.S. national team players are 20, 20 and 19 years old respectively and after coming through the youth ranks together, the USA’s game at Wembley against England on Thursday is set to be the first time the trio will play together for the senior national team.

[ MORE: Pulisic ready to lead USMNT ] 

The future of the USMNT lies in their hands and all three are eager to lead the U.S. moving forward as they’ve been fast-tracked into the squad after the failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

“We’re definitely looking forward to it,” Pulisic said. “I mean, I have played with so many of these guys before so it doesn’t even feel that unnatural. It’s just going to be a normal game for us. It’s great to have these guys together and we are looking forward it.”

And all three will soon be playing in the Bundesliga and testing themselves at the highest level in Europe.

Pulisic is already a star at Borussia Dortmund who top the German league, McKennie is carving out a wonderful career for himself at giants Schalke and Adams is expected to join RB Leipzig from the New York Red Bulls in the January transfer window.

With their career paths all taking a similar trajectory, McKennie believes they can look back on lessons they’ve learned together in their days with the U.S. youth national teams.

“It is something we’ve talked about and we’ve all looked forward to it,” McKennie added. “It is always nice to play with people you know and people you are familiar with and have been playing with since you were 15 years old. If we look at the journey we went through, Tyler and I didn’t go through the journey Christian did, but back in residency days Tyler and I shared some moments and it is always nice to step on the field together.”

After missing the friendly against Bolivia in May, where Pulisic and McKennie played, Adams is eager to get the band back together too.

“It hasn’t happened quite yet and everyone is talking about it a little bit, we are excited to play together. We haven’t played together in a while now,” Adams smiled. “They played together in the Bolivia game and they did well, so it is going to be exciting to step out on the field with them.”

When the trio — who are all expected to start at Wembley on Thursday — do step onto the field, they are not youngsters who will be ushered into the game.

They are expected to lead the USMNT against England, with McKennie and Adams likely to play in central midfield and Pulisic playing as a no.10 or off the flank.

At 20 years of age both Pulisic and McKennie realize that with their already strong careers in Germany’s top-flight they’ve been thrust into leadership roles extremely early on in their international careers.

They are ready to embrace it.

“Leadership really doesn’t have anything to do with age, I don’t think,” McKennie said. “Leadership is how you carry yourself on and off the field and how you represent yourself on the field also. You could be quiet off the field and on the field you could be bossing people around and giving commands and saying ‘here, left, right, that way’ and I guess the way you present yourself on the field, people that are watching the game can tell if you’re a leader or not. I think I am a person that can be a leader and Christian is also a person that has a leadership role. We have many guys on this team that vibe off each other and we listen to. It is a big opportunity for us to take on and I think we are doing a good job of it.”

Their opponents on Thursday, England, have been through a monumental squad rebuild of their own in recent months under Gareth Southgate. That resulted in a run to the semifinals of the 2018 World Cup and a fourth-place finish. Adams believes the USMNT can look to the Three Lions for inspiration between now and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

“It is a similar blueprint, for sure, you see a lot of young guys doing well and a lot of young players in England doing well in Germany and vice versa,” Adams said. “A lot of guys are getting opportunities now and that is the same as we want to do. The more experiences we have in big games like this, the better it will be for the future.”

In terms of Adams following his buddies to the Bundesliga, the New York Red Bulls star was coy on any upcoming move but he is looking forward to stepping up to the next level with his close friends.

“Anytime you can challenge yourself against the best players in the world and showcase yourself and your talent, whoever could be watching, it is exciting,” Adams said. “For me, I am focused on what I’m doing right now with MLS and obviously we are at an important part of the season. After that, should be exciting. I am excited for it.”

Everyone connected with the USMNT are excited to watch Adams, McKennie in Pulisic in action together for the full national team.

Premier League player Power Rankings: Week 12

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Our latest batch of Premier League player Power Rankings are here, as we’ve had a little time to digest the displays from last weekend over the early stages of the international break.

[ MORE: Full Power Rankings archive ]

There are plenty of new entries at the top of our rankings due to some big weeks for players finding their feet with new clubs.

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League and based on them actually playing in the previous Matchweek. If they didn’t play due to injury or suspension, they aren’t going to make this list. Simple.

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections.


  1. Raheem Sterling (Man City – Even
  2. Xherdan Shaqiri (Liverpool) – New entry
  3. Fernandinho (Man City) – Up 13
  4. Salomon Rondon (Newcastle United) – New entry
  5. Bernd Leno (Arsenal) – New entry
  6. David Silva (Man City) – Up 1
  7. John Stones (Man City) – New entry
  8. Bernardo Silva (Man City) – Up 12
  9. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – Up 5
  10. Sergio Aguero (Man City) – Up 1
  11. Lucas Torreira (Arsenal) – Down 6
  12. Anthony Martial (Man United) – Down 10
  13. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – Down 4
  14. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool) – Down 2
  15. Erik Lamela (Tottenham) – Down 2
  16. Felipe Anderson (West Ham) – Down 11
  17. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) – New entry
  18. Sol Bamba (Cardiff City) – New entry
  19. Lewis Dunk (Brighton) – New entry
  20. Callum Paterson (Cardiff City) – New entry

USMNT, Wigan defender Robinson out injured

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U.S. left back Antonee Robinson will miss Thursday’s exhibition at England and next week’s match against Italy after spraining his right ankle in training, an injury expected to sideline him for four weeks.

[ MORE: Pulisic ready to lead USMNT

The 21-year-old defender was hurt during training on Tuesday, the U.S. Soccer Federation said.

Robinson plays for Wigan in England’s second-tier League Championship. He made his U.S. debut in May and has six international appearances.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Christian Pulisic is now ready to lead USMNT

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LONDON — All eyes from an American perspective will be on Christian Pulisic at Wembley on Thursday as England host the U.S men’s national team in a friendly.

The 20-year-old is growing up fast and he will play for the USMNT for the first time since May, and just the second time in the last 13 months, when he steps onto the pitch in London.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Due to injuries and being handed a rest over the summer, interim head coach Dave Sarachan hasn’t had Pulisic to call on often. Now, on the big stage against England at the home of soccer, everyone connected with U.S. Soccer is waiting to see if he can lead this young USMNT into a new era.

Since Pulisic broke into tears after the USA’s shock defeat to Trinidad & Tobago — which resulted in their elimination from qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in October 2017 — he has played a friendly game against Bolivia. That is it.

Speaking to a small group of U.S. based reporters in west London ahead of the USMNT’s game against England on Thursday, Pulisic was calm and quiet ahead of his return and the Borussia Dortmund star seems to have grown up quite a bit.

“It hasn’t been awkward at all,” Pulisic said when asked about his time away from the team. “Obviously it was super tough, not qualifying [for the World Cup], we would have loved to have been there. We can’t change that now. I’ve had some injuries which made me miss out on some of the games and now I am just super excited to be back with these guys.”

These guys include teenagers Tim Weah and Josh Sargent, plus other young stars Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie but Pulisic is clearly the player the USMNT look to in order to push them on to the next level.

His leadership role is one that is developing and he believes he can now start to carry this team forward with the 2022 World Cup the next major target.

“I mean you know I’ve been a part of this team for the whole qualifying process and now moving forward, some of these guys who weren’t there during that time,” Pulisic said. “I definitely need to be a more important piece of this team and continue to grow as a leader. That support for the team, for myself. Yeah. It’s going to be fun. For me it’s tough because I’m not a very vocal guy, not super outgoing, but I think the biggest thing I can do is lead by example. I want to show these guys how it’s done on a professional level. I want to go in and to be focused every day and in training. I think guys see that, they want to do the same thing.” 

Pulisic voiced his belief that the USMNT need to hire a new head coach soon (current Columbus Crew coach Gregg Berhalter is expected to take charge in the coming weeks) despite Sarachan steadying the ship over a turbulent last 12 months.

“We definitely want a permanent coach and someone who has a plan and someone who has an idea of how we want to play moving forward,” Pulisic said. “In the meantime Dave [Sarachan] has also done a good job developing guys and calling guys in and allowing them to be a part of the team as well. It is something I think will definitely happen in the near future.”

In the near future the USMNT will aim to emulate their opponents on Thursday, as a young England team reached the semifinals of the 2018 World Cup.

“England is a great team, I think they surprised a lot of people and had a great World Cup,” Pulisic said. “Yes it’s an inspiration for us. We definitely feel that with the young side that we have that we can also do something like that. That’s the goal for us.”

Pulisic lavished praise on Wayne Rooney, who is being honored during the U.S. game as he wins his 120th and final cap for the Three Lions, with the Pennsylvania native revealing he studied Rooney’s career and hopes to emulate it with the U.S. There are similarities with how Rooney and Pulisic were seen as saviors for their respective soccer nations.

“Yeah I mean a guy like that and has had such a successful career is something that I can I can look at and I want to be just like that,” Pulisic said. “I want to have a long career with wherever I may be that I am doing the best I can. Now he’s ended up in MLS, who knows if I will end up there one day. It’s great to see that and I can definitely look up to a guy like that.”

Never too far from Pulisic’s mind is the fact he is now in a leadership role, along with the likes of Weston McKennie, and he has fast become a figurehead for this new, and very young, USMNT side.

“I think that we have a lot of brave young players and guys who aren’t afraid to come in and show us what they know about the game, what they learned from their clubs. I think that’s really important,” Pulisic said. “Guys can’t come in to be shy and expect us to kind of show them the ropes. They’ve got to come in and they’ve got to show what they can do it and be competent with it. I think that’s what makes a great young team.

“Me and Weston are both 20, so it’s not like we’re experienced old guys! We’re in the same boat as a lot of other players. Of course we know, myself especially, have been through a qualifying process, been through stuff like that. So obviously I have more experience in that side of things. So I will help the guys and I try to as much as I can. And Weston the same he has also had some experience, some good Bundesliga experience. We want to help out the young guys who don’t have that as much as we can. We also still have a lot to learn.”

Their latest lesson against England will be a heck of a learning experience for this young U.S. team, and Pulisic is ready to lead the Stars and Stripes.