Crisis is too strong of a word, but welcome to the first dilemma of the United States men’s national team’s Gregg Berhalter era.
The USMNT’s first two World Cup qualifiers since its humiliating exit from 2018 qualifying — you might remember the loss to Trinidad and Tobago’s B-team in Couva — have ended in draws: a scoreless away match in El Salvador and a 1-1 split with Canada in Nashville.
Results from around CONCACAF have made the draws less damaging than they could’ve been, as only presumed qualifier Mexico (two wins) and 2018 participant Panama (one) have made their way into the win column, but what exactly are the worries and is the grass greener and safer than your typical CONCACAF away pitch?
Here we’ll dig into the reasons behind the 0W-2D-0L start to “The Octagonal” and evaluate whether those factors could be long-term worries while also touching on some key quotes from Gregg Berhalter, Tyler Adams, and Christian Pulisic after the 1-1 draw with Canada.
Most simple rationale first: Absences hurt (and continue in Honduras)
Let’s talk about depth, baby.
USMNT supporters waking up Monday might’ve looked at their two points and grimaced a little before saying, “Yeah but we’re just over half-strength.”
They wouldn’t be wrong.
Berhalter was without Christian Pulisic, Timothy Weah, and Zack Steffen in El Salvador and opted to rest top defender John Brooks. Pulisic returned for Canada, but Weston McKennie was suspended for breaking a team rule and Giovanni Reyna was injured in San Salvador.
Those are players who are factors at Chelsea, Nice, Manchester City, Wolfsburg, Juventus, and Borussia Dortmund. There have been periods in USMNT history where there weren’t players in the pool on the books at top clubs in Europe, let alone five of them.
Also either injured or not called up? Yunus Musah, Gyasi Zardes, Matthew Hoppe, Jordan Morris, Daryl Dike, Chris Richards, and Aaron Long. And Bryan Reynolds. And Matt Miazga. And Reggie Cannon (who may be the biggest winner of this break so far with Sergino Dest and DeAndre Yedlin struggling at right back).
You get the idea. You could craft a lineup of absences that you’d expect to get a point or three in El Salvador.
Cannon — Richards — Miazga — Vines
Musah — Green — Busio
Morris — Zardes — Weah
Tyler Adams admitted disappointment in McKennie’s absence and his team’s performance, but bristled at the idea that the players’ improved club pedigree matters much (even if it does more than a little, a passed litmus test of the quality of talent developed and identified in the pool).
“It’s a team sport. Doesn’t matter where we come from. If we don’t go out there and do the things we’re good at, then we’re just a group of names on a piece of paper. Other teams maybe they don’t have the players that play for these big clubs, it doesn’t matter. No individual is going to qualify for a World Cup.
The final third answer hasn’t been found (or isn’t healthy)
The talent above means that CONCACAF foes, more than ever, are going to choose physical and defensive options against the USA.
You may even see it from Tata Martino’s Mexico after the U.S. beat them twice this summer, especially with Mexico 2-0 and already in a position where it’s unlikely to be under the gun during qualifying.
So when Christian Pulisic said the following quote after the game, it’s a clarion call to the player pool and even his manager.
“We need new ideas at times. Today we didn’t test them enough, whether it was not being direct enough. I’m not too sure. We didn’t break them down. Obviously it wasn’t good enough.”
Josh Sargent struggled at center forward in El Salvador, while Jordan Pefok was merely “just fine.” An average Zardes would’ve been an upgrade over both in terms of those performances, while Matthew Hoppe, Daryl Dike, and Nicholas Gioachhini are among the names who could be answers as well (Teenager Ricardo Pepi was on the bench and is the name on everyone’s lips due to his 11 goals in MLS this season, but a softer entry point would be a preferred way to introduce him to the CONCACAF climate).
Playing Pulisic in his preferred position could also work, and service from a healthy Reyna would be nice, too.
What about those ideas? Berhalter’s on the hook for some of this, too. The Yanks were bad in tight spaces, especially anywhere near the top of the 18, and almost all of Sunday’s danger arrived from Pulisic being fouled or Antonee Robinson whipping in crosses or making surging runs into the Canadian third.
Weston McKennie looks like an unbridled force in a USMNT shirt, but he’s gotta be able to put on the shirt in order to be a factor.
McKennie was dropped from the team in Nashville for breaking a team rule, the 23-year-old issuing an apology on social media for the infraction just as he did when he hosted a team party at Juventus and was punished by the Serie A club.
It’s inexcusable to the extent that it remains stunning a day later than the Texan would risk breaking a rule during a pandemic after the nation underperformed in its first World Cup qualifier since bombing out of 2018 eligibility.
And if Berhalter wanted to be lenient — he doesn’t, and has sent McKennie back to Italy — he couldn’t because McKennie is such a huge part of this team’s guts.
While Berhalter tried to not to discuss McKennie’s infraction and Pulisic clearly measured his words in how he spoke about his friend, Tyler Adams was a bit more open about the issue.
“It’s not an ideal because he’s such an important character for this team, not just on the field but for what he does to bring us together,” Adams said. “It’s disappointing but it’s that next man up mentality. … To be fair it hurts us but I don’t think it affected the team too much.”
Maybe it did. Maybe it didn’t. But they’ll have to find their fire Wednesday without McKennie. And if they can’t, well, that’s a huge problem for the state of the team.
Will the USMNT qualify for the World Cup?
Most likely. CONCACAF qualifying is already extremely forgiving to the confederation’s powers and even moreso with 14 matches on this docket and seven of the 10 matches so far being draws.
Yes, they would’ve targeted six points from El Salvador and at least four from Canada — with a home win — but changes in absences and answers will deliver plenty of success.
This is a program who, prior to the last five days, had not lost to anyone besides Switzerland since October 2019 and only drew Wales.
To fall off the World Cup map, it would need a collapse bigger than anything Jurgen Klinsmann and Bruce Arena oversaw despite having the deepest pool in American history.
American soccer has, had, and will have a wealth of brutal debates in its past, present, and future, mostly because the United States’ troubled history with the game and — if we’re honest — the exceptionalism that comes with having the world’s best leagues in basketball, baseball, American football, and hockey amongst others.
United States Soccer, however, has largely had its hands full when it comes to collecting interest in the U.S. game outside of the men’s and women’s national teams as well as clubs in their local markets (Regional markets if lucky).
Those thoughts are natural when it comes to Wrexham, which boasts its Hollywood owners and a slick and heartfelt reality show “Welcome To Wrexham,” but the attention that comes with all of that is also a symptom of a team built for a promotion that proved its quality again Sunday.
And it did it against a team just as likely for a promotion that boasts plenty of players who were in the Premier League when it was at its peak: Oliver Norwood, Oli McBurnie, John Egan, Chris Basham. Blades boss Paul Heckingbottom then called upon Billy Sharp and Max Lowe to boot.
But Wrexham is a very good team, one trying to hold off Notts County for promotion to the Football League. Its owners have paid well for experienced players and this is a team delivering on an underdog level with legit players (Elliott Lee, Ollie Palmer, and Paul Mullin are all plenty fit for the next level).
The acrimony amongst some in the Twittersphere toward Wrexham or those who’ve bought into their rise or rejuvenation is somewhat understandable. Major League Soccer’s rise has been incredible and rapid, but it cannot manufacture 160-year-old clubs. While the U.S. was an early adopter and promoter of girls and women’s soccer, it had a stop-start relationship with the men’s game.
When it’s thrived, like in the first NASL and the second stage of MLS, it’s been because of the spotlight that came with the introductions of Pele and Franz Beckenbauer, and later David Beckham, Thierry Henry, David Villa, and Robbie Keane. And while MLS has reached a new level with younger South American imports and MLS academy stars, pick one who pushed the league back onto the front page like Zlatan Ibrahimovic. We’ll wait.
So it stands to reason that celebrities have brought Wrexham a new level of interest around the world. And the fact that these celebrities have invested to put a good team in front of cameras gives it legs. Soccer here has earned attention on its merit, and it’s fair to wish that Sacramento Republic and Chattanooga FC could get the celebrity bumps delivered to LAFC and Austin FC. But being angry with attention going to a club deeeeep into its second century? That’s not becoming.
Can Wrexham earn promotion? Yep. If so, is the sky the limit? Maybe not the sky, but certainly that big, nine-letter word in the hills of Los Angeles isn’t too high. And the bug caught by Reynolds and apparent in his eyes as he celebrated Wrexham goals is going to be caught by so many others as the 2026 World Cup heads for our shores. Might as well embrace it, because it’s a fast-forward button for the sport here whether your club’s barely-known or a 50-year-old Cascadian mainstay.
We might not like how big of a role celebrity plays in our sports, but it’s very real.
Manchester City vs Arsenal does little to change Premier League title opinions
It was cagey, tense, and frankly pretty fun, but Man City’s 1-0 win over Arsenal didn’t do much to either make the upstarts change their beliefs they can win the Premier League or the defending champs believe any less in a three peat.
Man City earned its one-goal win and it was a deserved spot in the next round, but there were plenty of moments that showed Arsenal getting one or six of six points off City to keep an advantage in the title race is very realistic.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta should feel content with Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland drawing starts in this match and even better that a less-than-ideal defensive performance out of everyone not named Gabriel Magalhaes or Matt Turner was enough to keep the duo quiet.
City had strong performances from so many others including Jack Grealish, Nathan Ake, Rodri, and Ilkay Gundogan, but look at the numbers below. This was more than a feeling-out period ahead of Feb. 15 but had all those vibes.
Arsenal can love that it limited Man City to an xG lower than it produced in any Premier League match this season. In fact, City’s only produced less than 1.00 xG in the PL on a few occasions.
Bring on February 15.
Kaoru Mitoma has that special something (that Liverpool has lost)
It’s almost improbably clever, the way Kaoru Mitoma juggled around Liverpool’s defense to deal the Reds a 2-1 loss and give Brighton a spot in the next round.
And it screams from the screen that Liverpool was on the receiving end of a moment like this… again, but first give credit to Brighton for signing Mitoma and hiring a replacement for Graham Potter ready to properly deploy the Japanese star.
Roberto De Zerbi is getting a lot out of the Seagulls and Mitoma is the brightest bulb in the pack at the moment. Mitoma, 25, can’t stop producing at the moment and is delivering goals at a better rate for Brighton this season than he did last year for Royal Union Saint Gilloise.
His beautiful goal Sunday won it for the Seagulls and gives him four goals and an assist in his last six matches dating back to a Dec. 31 encounter with Arsenal in the Premier League.
While Brighton can point to Mitoma as a talisman that might drive its rise into Europe, Liverpool is wondering how it can start to conjure consistent performances like that out of someone other than Mohamed Salah.
The 30-year-old Egyptian does have 17 goals and seven assists this season. He hasn’t scored in four-straight Premier League matches but is still delivering in the cup. Harvey Elliott scored Sunday and Liverpool needs him, Cody Gakpo, or another attacker to help Salah drive the bus.
Manchester United, Tottenham confirm they care to be tournament threats…
Any given weekend, Manchester United or Tottenham Hotspur can look incredible or poor in the Premier League. While United is finding consistency under Erik ten Hag and Spurs are better than any realize under Antonio Conte, neither is at or near its recent top level.
That said, both showed this weekend that when given the opportunity to focus on a single game against an inferior opponent, there’s very little hope for the latter. Man Utd pounded Reading and Tottenham was way too much for Preston. And the deeper both go, there’s little reason to doubt they could beat anyone left in the field… and Chelsea, Arsenal, and Liverpool have already left the competition.
…While Leeds, Southampton have potential to play spoiler
That last line cues up the reason that Leeds and Saints can both be good tournament teams, something that Southampton has shown in the League Cup as well.
Lower-half sides in the Premier League, managers Jesse Marsch and Nathan Jones can galvanize their teams not just around PL safety but also an extended Cup. Yes, both will need favorable draws to make these ideas become reality but have the X-factors — Rodrigo, Wilfried Gnonto, and Jack Harrison for Leeds, and James Ward-Prowse, Mislav Orsic, and Romain Perraiud for Saints — to deliver something extra special.
Remember: you can watch all 380 Premier League games across NBC, USA Network, NBCSports.com and Peacock. We’ve got you covered.
Will Manchester City win yet another Premier League title? Can Chelsea and Liverpool push them all the way? How will Manchester United’s new-look side fare? What about Tottenham and Arsenal? How will the new boys get on? Who will be the surprise package?
Those questions will be answered from August 2022 to May 2023, with the full list of Premier League fixtures.
While below are the answers to all of the questions you have around the Premier League fixtures and everything else you need to know for the upcoming season, with full details on the Premier League TV schedule across the NBC family of channels and more.
The Premier League fixtures for the 2022-23 season were announced on Thursday June 16, 2022 at 4am ET. Below is the full schedule, as you can watch all 380 games across our NBC platforms.
The Premier League fixture computer decides who plays who and when, as teams located close to one another are usually playing at home on opposite weekends to help with policing, crowd control and transport congestion in those areas.
When will the Premier League take a break for the 2022 World Cup?
When will the 2022-23 Premier League season finish?
The final day of the season will be on Sunday, May 28, 2023.
Which teams will compete in the 2022-23 Premier League?
These are the 20 teams which will compete in the Premier League for the upcoming season:
Arsenal, Aston Villa, Bournemouth, Brentford, Brighton and Hove Albion, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Everton, Fulham, Leeds United, Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Nottingham Forest, Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United, Wolverhampton Wanderers
7:30am: Everton v Arsenal
Aston Villa v Leicester
Brentford v Southampton
Brighton v AFC Bournemouth
Man Utd v Crystal Palace
Wolves v Liverpool
12:30pm: Newcastle v West Ham
Sunday 5 February
9am: Nottingham Forest v Leeds
11:30am: Spurs v Man City
Saturday 11 February
7:30am: West Ham v Chelsea
Arsenal v Brentford
Crystal Palace v Brighton
Fulham v Nottingham Forest
Leicester v Spurs
Southampton v Wolves
12:30pm: AFC Bournemouth v Newcastle
Sunday 12 February
9am: Leeds v Man Utd
11:30am: Man City v Aston Villa
Monday 13 February
3pm: Liverpool v Everton
Wednesday 15 February
2:30pm: Arsenal vs Manchester City (rearranged)
Saturday 18 February
7:30am: Aston Villa v Arsenal
Brentford v Crystal Palace
Brighton v Fulham
Chelsea v Southampton
Everton v Leeds
Nottingham Forest v Man City
Wolves v AFC Bournemouth
12:30pm: Newcastle v Liverpool
Sunday 19 February
9am: Man Utd v Leicester
11:30am: Spurs v West Ham
Friday 24 February
3pm: Fulham v Wolves
Saturday 25 February
7:30am: Newcastle v Brighton
Everton v Aston Villa
Leeds v Southampton
Leicester v Arsenal
West Ham v Nottingham Forest
12:30pm: AFC Bournemouth v Man City *subject to EFL Cup Final
2:45pm: Crystal Palace v Liverpool ^If Liverpool are not in EFL fifth round and if AFC Bournemouth or Man City progress to EFL Cup final, this match will move to 17:30 and remain on Sky Sports
Sunday 26 February
8:30am: Man Utd v Brentford* Due to UEFA Europa League playoff round
8:30am: Spurs v Chelsea
Saturday 4 March
Arsenal v AFC Bournemouth
Aston Villa v Crystal Palace
Brentford v Fulham
Brighton v West Ham
Chelsea v Leeds
Liverpool v Man Utd
Man City v Newcastle
Nottingham Forest v Everton
Southampton v Leicester
Wolves v Spurs
Saturday 11 March
AFC Bournemouth v Liverpool
Crystal Palace v Man City
Everton v Brentford
Fulham v Arsenal
Leeds v Brighton
Leicester v Chelsea
Man Utd v Southampton
Newcastle v Wolves
Spurs v Nottingham Forest
West Ham v Aston Villa
Saturday 18 March
Arsenal v Crystal Palace
Aston Villa v AFC Bournemouth
Brentford v Leicester
Brighton v Man Utd
Chelsea v Everton
Liverpool v Fulham
Man City v West Ham
Nottingham Forest v Newcastle
Southampton v Spurs
Wolves v Leeds
Saturday 1 April
AFC Bournemouth v Fulham
Arsenal v Leeds
Brighton v Brentford
Chelsea v Aston Villa
Crystal Palace v Leicester
Everton v Spurs
Man City v Liverpool
Newcastle v Man Utd
Nottingham Forest v Wolves
West Ham v Southampton
Saturday 8 April
Aston Villa v Nottingham Forest
Brentford v Newcastle
Fulham v West Ham
Leeds v Crystal Palace
Leicester v AFC Bournemouth
Liverpool v Arsenal
Man Utd v Everton
Southampton v Man City
Spurs v Brighton
Wolves v Chelsea
Saturday 15 April
Aston Villa v Newcastle
Chelsea v Brighton
Everton v Fulham
Leeds v Liverpool
Man City v Leicester
Nottingham Forest v Man Utd
Southampton v Crystal Palace
Spurs v AFC Bournemouth
West Ham v Arsenal
Wolves v Brentford
Saturday 22 April
AFC Bournemouth v West Ham
Arsenal v Southampton
Brentford v Aston Villa
Brighton v Man City
Crystal Palace v Everton
Fulham v Leeds
Leicester v Wolves
Liverpool v Nottingham Forest
Man Utd v Chelsea
Newcastle v Spurs
Tuesday 25 April
19:45 Everton v Newcastle
19:45 Leeds v Leicester
19:45 Nottingham Forest v Brighton
19:45 Spurs v Man Utd
19:45 West Ham v Liverpool
19:45 Wolves v Crystal Palace
20:00 Aston Villa v Fulham
Wednesday 26 April
19:45 Chelsea v Brentford
19:45 Southampton v AFC Bournemouth
20:00 Man City v Arsenal
Saturday 29 April
AFC Bournemouth v Leeds
Arsenal v Chelsea
Brentford v Nottingham Forest
Brighton v Wolves
Crystal Palace v West Ham
Fulham v Man City
Leicester v Everton
Liverpool v Spurs
Man Utd v Aston Villa
Newcastle v Southampton
Saturday 6 May
AFC Bournemouth v Chelsea
Brighton v Everton
Fulham v Leicester
Liverpool v Brentford
Man City v Leeds
Newcastle v Arsenal
Nottingham Forest v Southampton
Spurs v Crystal Palace
West Ham v Man Utd
Wolves v Aston Villa
Saturday 13 May
Arsenal v Brighton
Aston Villa v Spurs
Brentford v West Ham
Chelsea v Nottingham Forest
Crystal Palace v AFC Bournemouth
Everton v Man City
Leeds v Newcastle
Leicester v Liverpool
Man Utd v Wolves
Southampton v Fulham
Saturday 20 May
AFC Bournemouth v Man Utd
Brighton v Southampton
Fulham v Crystal Palace
Liverpool v Aston Villa
Man City v Chelsea
Newcastle v Leicester
Nottingham Forest v Arsenal
Spurs v Brentford
West Ham v Leeds
Wolves v Everton
Sunday 28 May
16:00 Arsenal v Wolves
16:00 Aston Villa v Brighton
16:00 Brentford v Man City
16:00 Chelsea v Newcastle
16:00 Crystal Palace v Nottingham Forest
16:00 Everton v AFC Bournemouth
16:00 Leeds v Spurs
16:00 Leicester v West Ham
16:00 Man Utd v Fulham
16:00 Southampton v Liverpool
Copa America last came to the U.S., in the summer of 2016 for Copa America Centenario, the 100-year celebration of the South American championship.
Back in 2016, the USMNT and Mexico were not required to qualify for the tournament, but the CONCACAF giants will not be given an automatic bid to Copa America 2024. They will also be forced to qualify as one of six CONCACAF through the 2023-24 Nations League. Previously, the other four bids from CONCACAF were awarded via various regional tournaments and and qualifying playoffs.
The CONMEBOL-CONCACAF partnership also extends to the women’s game, where the Gold Cup is being revamped.
2024 CONCACAF W[omen’s] Gold Cup will include eight CONCACAF women’s national teams and four CONMEBOL guests
For women’s national teams, CONCACAF has invited the top four CONMEBOL national teams to participate in the 2024 CONCACAF W Gold Cup. The inaugural edition of this 12-team tournament, which is a key part of CONCACAF’s new women’s national team ecosystem, will be played in the United States.
The two Concacaf teams that will participate in the 2024 Summer Olympics (United States and Jamaica or Canada) will qualify directly for the 2024 Concacaf W Gold Cup. The remaining six Concacaf teams will be determined through the 2023 Road to Concacaf W Gold Cup.
2024 Copa America: What does it mean for USMNT?
First things first, it means playing more high-level, competitive games between World Cups. The USMNT has faced the likes of Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and other South American nations in friendlies over the years, but as things stand their only competitive fixtures come against CONCACAF competition — the Gold Cup and World Cup qualifying.
The timing of the tournament is beneficial for all national teams involved as well, at the halfway point to the 2026 World Cup — also set to be hosted in the United States (and Mexico and Canada) — just as EURO 2024 is the halfway marker for European nations. The 2023 Gold Cup is still on the schedule for this summer, with the final to be played at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles.
Only time will tell if the combined Copa America will become the new norm in the Americas, but given what we know about the profitability of international soccer, there will certainly be a “cross your fingers and hope all goes well” vibe in 2024.
Would a move to Leeds be a good fit for Weston McKennie?
Stylistically the Premier League is a great fit for Weston McKennie and Leeds are probably one of the best teams he could move to.
He loves to fly into tackles and drive forward from midfield and playing just in front of Tyler Adams and Marc Roca or to the right of them would be a perfect spot for him at Leeds.
It would give Leeds more control of games and the Yorkshire club also play to his strengths. it’s a really good fit.
McKennie has struggled to have a big impact at Juve this season as injuries have taken their toll on him over the last few years. That would perhaps be the one concern about his move to the Premier League, as McKennie seems to pick up quite a few knocks.
However, looking at his stats below from this season at Juventus, the chances he creates per game and the shots per game will improve and his accurate passing will help Leeds become less susceptible on the counter.
McKennie is a player who rattles into tackles, feeds off the energy of his fans and his mentality is perfect for the aggressive side Jesse Marsch has created at Leeds.
The Texas born midfielder has always wanted to play in the Premier League and he’s got his wish at a club where he will play week in, week out and one which suits his style of play perfectly.