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Top 25 players in the USMNT player pool right now

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There’s reason to be worried about the United States men’s national team and the 2022 World Cup following the latest round of player call-ups from Gregg Berhalter.

That’s not because this roster in itself is inherently bad, or that Berhalter’s choices are a singular terrible moment that signals the downfall of his tenure.

And it’s also not because this unit will not qualify for Qatar. They probably will. It’s worth discussing whether they should be entering this window without qualification in the bag, yes, but this is more of a big-picture discussion.

[ MORE: Best XI for qualifiers | USMNT World Cup qual. schedule]

Most people would agree that the age of the USMNT roster and an analysis of the player pool means the side is likely to be at the peak of its powers heading into the 2026 World Cup, but that doesn’t mean the Yanks can’t do real damage at this winter’s World Cup with a halfway decent draw. Talking about how darn young your team is compared to historical version of it is only impressive if you aren’t leaving older players behind out of principles or stats (Just ask Frank Lampard how good it was to play the youth of Chelsea when Thomas Tuchel put the vets back out there and won the European Cup).

Look at the philosophy behind, construction of, and performance by Berhalter’s unit and it’s very difficult to imagine he’s going to make an unbiased selection of the best group of players for a World Cup, adopt the appropriate mentality for a growing power in the sport, and humbly appreciate whichever international opponent stands between him and USSF immortality.

By far the least of the problems caused by the uncertainty of Berhalter’s plan for the program is our USMNT Player Pool Power Rankings, for there is now a “Top 25 USMNT players in the world” and a “Top 25 USMNT players to Gregg Berhalter” that are very different. The key word is the modifier: Very. Every national team manager is going to have a preference or three — Ask any MLS fan about Jurgen Klinsmann and Benny Feilhaber — but Berhalter’s got a bunch than are more than hunch than punch.

The prevalence of advanced stats now makes it possible to compare players from different leagues. If we accept that the top five leagues in Europe are, while a different animal in style, largely superior to MLS.

John Brooks as an example

Let’s start here: Even without explicit acknowledgment or even much innuendo, we have to operate in a mindset that Gregg Berhalter sees John Brooks’ personality or reputation inside of the team as reason to keep him out of the squad. His omission in the Fall felt appropriate given form and both coach and player handled the issue with class, so it seems like the veteran back “got it.”

But Brooks is healthy and playing well for Wolfsburg now. Of backs to play more than 15 league matches, he’s

  • 18th In clearances
  • 11th in aerial duels won percentage
  • 18th in ground duels won percentage
  • 37th In interceptions
  • ninth in accurate long balls per game
  • 18th in clearances
  • 20th in passes attempted
  •  not made an error that’s led to an opposition shot
  • is 25th in SofaScore rating.

Regardless, even a dipped-in-form Brooks is superior to most of the backs of the pool, so whether it’s just a clash of strong personalities or a story we won’t get for a long time, let’s try to accept that Berhalter knows what he’s leaving home and hope that somehow the trade-off is worth it.

As an exercise and with expectation but without pre-judgment, I’ve used the site FBRef.com and its collection of StatsBomb data to put Brooks and the four called-up USMNT pool center backs into the same FBRef.com comparison.

With the caveat that we used the 2021 MLS seasons of James Sands, Miles Robinson, and Walker Zimmerman instead of Sands’ rarely-used start at Rangers and three-match sample sizes for the latter, here’s how Brooks and Erik Palmer-Brown stack up alongside the aforementioned trio. We’ve excluded Aaron Long as he returns from a long-term injury.

Current USMNT CBs stat leaders in club play, per 90 minutes

Passes attempted: Robinson, 59.9 (Brooks 2nd, 59.6)

Passes completed: Robinson, 51.5 (Brooks 3rd, 50.5)

Pass percentage: Sands, 90 (Brooks 3rd, 84.7)

Pass progression distance: Brooks, 410.5 yards (Robinson 2nd, 364.9)

Tackle percentage: Palmer-Brown, 73.7 (Brooks 3rd, 54.3)

Pressure percentage: Palmer-Brown, 38.8 (Brooks 2nd, 38.6)

Shots blocked: Brooks, 1.94 (Robinson 2nd, 1.84)

Tackles+interceptions: Brooks, 4.22 (Palmer-Brown 2nd, 4.18)

Clearances: Zimmerman, 5.9 (Brooks 2nd, 5.5)

Distance progressed: Robinson, 290 (Brooks 2nd, 243.7)

Aerial duels won %: Zimmerman, 76.7 (Brooks 5th, 65.3)

Yep. Brooks leads in some huge categories lauded by Berhalter and is only worse than 3-of-5 in aerial duels won (which is, actually, stunning). And it’s encouraging to see the deeper numbers/analytics explain the Erik Palmer-Brown call-up, a long-time promising defender who is probably not meriting a ton of eyeballs at Troyes.

That’s not to say that he’s a beast among beasts and destined for the very upper reaches of the Bundesliga, which was once a thing. But he’s a strong player who is going to have a strong selection of very good teams from which to choose his next club this summer, and it wouldn’t be surprising if sometime soon we read a hit-piece on why he’s out of the national team fray right now, or learn that he said, “Don’t call me up if I’m not starting.”

I have zero proof of either, which are concocted in a logical lab, but I just can’t calculate another explanation.

Two Big Worries

Presuming the Yanks qualify for Qatar — because if they don’t (and they won’t), U.S. Soccer House should be the most dramatically and peacefully overturned apple cart in sports history — there are two huge worries for U.S. men’s national team fans.

1) The omitted XI

Realistically, in how many meaningful international should an argument be able to be made that a program the stature of the United States men’s national team has 11 healthy players that could defeat any group of XI chosen from the called-up squad.

So, let’s be true here, who wins this matchup?

Called up XI

Sean Johnson, Reggie Cannon, Aaron Long, James Sands, DeAndre Yedlin, Kellyn Acosta, Luca de la Torre, Cristian Roldan, Paul Arriola, Jordan Morris, Jesus Ferreira.

Healthy and uncalled XI

Brad Guzan, John Brooks, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Tim Ream, Joe Scally, Julian Green, Frankie Amaya, Paxton Pomykal, Sebastian Lletget, Djordje Mihailovic, Josh Sargent

Guzan, Amaya, Pomykal, and Ream probably shouldn’t be a part of the discussion and Green and Greuther Furth have struggled, but could you make an argument for calling the others up over the “Called up XI” members (which includes Johnson, Acosta, and Yedlin who are easy to explain as members of the roster but we needed to hit 11)?

We thinks so.

2) Know-it-all arrogance limits USMNT’s ceiling

But really, it just feels at times like Berhalter is one of those managers who believes he’s operating on a higher plane, one that a writer or a player or most of his peers could not possibly understand with their non-galaxy brains. And that’s combined with a stubborn streak that’s made him walk from proverbial beach sand into chest-deep ocean waters, shift back and forth in his stance until he’s ankle-deep, and just hope he’s read the waves right.

And maybe that hope isn’t even coming from Berhalter, but from USMNT fans who are looking at one of the less than 20 World Cups they get to see in their lifetime (until Gianni Infantino starts staging them monthly, at least). Hope is powerful and never dies, paraphrasing the famous quote from “Shawnshank Redemption,” and to be staring down the next World Cup with varying hopeful pleas — one that Berhalter won’t mess up the next week or the players will overcome the nonsense and another that he won’t bungle the World Cup once in Qatar — is a tremendously disappointing vibe.

One Big Asterisk*

Let’s also celebrate the incredible depth of the United States men’s national team, which barely registered blips with Julian Araujo choosing Mexico for his national future and Tyler Boyd not being on the radar after starring right away following a switch from New Zealand to the USMNT.

There was a time that either of those would’ve dominated all of our conversations — remember Jonathan Gonzalez and Gedion Zelalem — but are now just met with mild exhalations and groans.

Not only are MLS academies churning out top players in Major League Soccer as well as a bevy of exports to Europe, but here’s a list of players not even mentioned above or in the player pool rankings below:

Nicholas Gioacchini, Montpellier
Konrad de la Fuente, Marseille
Mark McKenzie, Genk
Justin Che, Hoffenheim
Henry Kessler, New England
Matt Miazga, Alaves
Bryan Reynolds, AS Roma
Sam Vines, Antwerp
Shaq Moore, Tenerife
Gyasi Zardes, Columbus Crew
Jackson Yueill, San Jose
Matthew Hoppe, Mallorca
Jonathan Lewis, Colorado

Top 25 players in the USMNT player pool right now

Before we go any further with this list, here’s a reminder of how we sort the talent with some ground rules:

  • The ranking is meant to illustrate who would be most likely to positively affect a USMNT match, regardless of manager or teammates, right now.
  • Health doesn’t matter to our rankings if a current injury isn’t one that could drastically alter the player’s skill set moving forward.
  • Age/potential/experience doesn’t matter either, at least not much; It’s how likely you are to contribute to the team if put on the field right now. Obviously Konrad de la Fuente is a better long-term prospect than Gyasi Zardes, but the Columbus Crew forward is currently better prepared for the stage than the Marseille youngster.
  • Finally, if you’re breaking a tie between players… ask which you’d be more upset to hear was unavailable for a USMNT camp.

Here we go

Players with an * were unavailable for this month’s qualifiers, # went unselected, last ranking In parentheses

1.  Christian Pulisic, Chelsea (1)
2. Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig (2)
3. Weston McKennie*, Juventus (3)
4. Timothy Weah, Lille (4)
5. Yunus Musah, Valencia (5)
6. Antonee Robinson, Fulham (6)
7. Miles Robinson, Atlanta United (13)
8. John Brooks# , Wolfsburg (18)
9. Giovanni Reyna, Borussia Dortmund (9)
10. Chris Richards*, Hoffenheim (11)
11. Walker Zimmerman, Nashville (7)
12. Jordan Pefok, BSC Young Boys (16)
13. Sergino Dest*, Barcelona (8)
14. Joe Scally#, Borussia Monchengladbach (15)
15. Brenden Aaronson, Red Bull Salzburg (12)
16. Zack Steffen, Manchester City (10)
17. Kellyn Acosta, Colorado Rapids (22)
18. Jordan Morris, Seattle Sounders (20)
19. Ricardo Pepi, Augsburg (17)
20. Gianluca Busio, Venezia (19)
21. Ethan Horvath, Nottingham Forest (NR)
22. Erik Palmer-Brown, Troyes (NR)
23. Cameron Carter-Vickers#, Celtic (NR)
24. Matt Turner*, New England Revolution, loan from Arsenal (21)
25. Cristian Roldan, Seattle Sounders (NR)

South Korea vs Portugal: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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South Korea have a must-win Group H finale against Portugal, who have already made it through to the last 16 of the World Cup.

STREAM LIVE SOUTH KOREA v PORTUGAL

Heung-min Son has struggled and South Korea have just one point on the board so far from their games against Uruguay and Ghana. Last time out they lost 3-2 to Ghana in excrutiating fashion after fighting back from 2-0 down to make it 2-2. Now more than ever, Son’s country needs him to deliver as he has failed to score or assist in the opening two games and looks extremely frustrated. South Korea must win to have a chance of reaching the last 16 ahead of Uruguay and Ghana.

[ MORE: Group H standings, schedule, rankings ]

The opposite emotions are true for Portugal who beat Ghana 3-2 and then Uruguay 2-0 to breeze into the last 16 and they only need a point to secure top spot in Group H. Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva have been pulling the strings and this Portugal side is stacked in attack with Rafael Leao and Joao Felix rotated in and out of the team to support Cristiano Ronaldo.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub

Here is everything you need for South Korea vs Portugal. 


How to watch South Korea vs Portugal live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET – Friday, December 2
Stadium: Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Obviously the stage is set for Heung-min Son. He is a hero in his homeland and he’s worked so hard to be fit for this tournament after the nasty facial injury but looks out of sorts on the left. Perhaps he can moved inside or slightly deeper to get on the ball more? Cho Gue-sung scored two beauties against Ghana and if South Korea can put more quality deliveries into the box, they will cause problems. They simply have to go all-out for the win and that approach saw them deliver their best play of the tournament in the second half against Ghana. However, South Korea’s Portuguese coach Paulo Bento was sent off at the end of that disappointing defeat to Ghana as he was unhappy with a late corner not being allowed as the final whistle was blown. He will miss this game through suspension. 

For Portugal it’s about resting key players and warming up for their last 16 clash. Winning the group is essential as that means they would face one of Serbia, Switzerland or Cameroon in the last 16 rather than Brazil. It is very unlikely Portugal won’t finish top, but it could happen. Basically, Ghana would have to win big to overturn a three-goal difference by beating Uruguay and Portugal would also have to lose against South Korea. It could happen but Fernando Santos can rotate his team and still have so much quality on the pitch as Goncalo Ramos, Diogo Dalot, Matheus Nunes and Rafael Leao could all start.


South Korea quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 28
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 10
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from AFC
Coach: Paulo Bento
Key players: Heung-min Son, Young-gwon Kim, In-beom Hwang, Woo-yeong Jeong

Portugal quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 9
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 8
How they qualified: Qualified from UEFA via playoffs
Coach: Fernando Santos
Key players: Cristiano Ronaldo, Ruben Neves, Bruno Fernandes, Joao Cancelo


Ghana vs Uruguay: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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This is going to be an epic Group H finale as there is so much history between Ghana and Uruguay and both teams still have a chance of reaching the last 16.

STREAM LIVE GHANA V URUGUAY

When you say Luis Suarez, Ghana and World Cup together, most people think of his incredible handball to deny the Black Stars victory in the quarterfinals of the 2010 World Cup. We all know what happened next as Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan missed the spot kick after Suarez had been sent off, then Uruguay won on penalty kicks to deny Ghana an historic semifinal berth.

The whole of Ghana has never forgot that and the Black Stars get their chance for revenge in this clash.

[ MORE: Group H standings, schedule, rankings ]

Focusing on this game, Ghana provided superb entertainment in their 3-2 win against South Korea and know a point against Uruguay will be enough to reach the last 16 if South Korea fail to beat Portugal in the other final Group H game. Thomas Partey has been superb in midfield, Mohammed Kudus scored twice up top in their big win and the additions of Tariq Lamptey and Mohammed Salisu just before this tournament has made a big difference.

As for Uruguay, they’ve huffed and puffed in their opening two games but have failed to score as Darwin Nunez, Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani have all looked off the pace. Rodrigo Bentancur and Federico Valverde have been great in midfield but is this one tournament too far for Uruguay’s incredible, but ageing, core? They need to win to have a chance of reaching the last 16.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub

Here is everything you need for Ghana vs Uruguay. 


How to watch Ghana vs Uruguay live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET – Friday, December 2
Stadium: Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Ghana will likely start the same team which started against South Korea as they looked dangerous in attack but they will have to improve defensively and keep the ball a bit better. The Ayew brothers (Jordan and Andre) provide so much experience, while Inaki Williams and Kudus knit everything together well in the final third.

Uruguay have to go for it, so does that mean starting Suarez, Cavani and Nunez up top together? If they do that they could cause Ghana, who have looked shaky at the back, plenty of problems. They may go back to a back four and the trio of Bentancur, Vecino and Valverde to hold down midfield.


Ghana quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 61
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 4
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CAF via playoffs
Coach: Otto Addo
Key players: Jordan Ayew, Andre Ayew, Thomas Partey, Jeff Schlupp

Uruguay quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 14
World Cup titles: 2 (1930, 1950)
World Cup appearances: 14
How they qualified: Qualified from CONMEBOL
Coach: Diego Alonso
Key players: Luis Suarez, Federico Valverde, Darwin Nunez, Rodrigo Bentancur


Cameroon vs Brazil: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Cameroon needs to upset qualified Brazil and get help from the other Group G game when the World Cup group stage hits Lusail on Friday.

The Indomitable Lions lost 1-0 to Switzerland before drawing Serbia 3-3 In a thrilling second encounter.

STREAM LIVE CAMEROON vs BRAZIL

Beating tournament favorites Brazil is a big ask but it will be a heavily-rotated and Neymar-less Selecao who faces Cameroon. Brazil blanked Serbia 2-0 in Lusail before beating Switzerland 1-0 in Doha.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for Cameroon vs Brazil.


How to watch Cameroon vs Brazil live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Friday Dec. 2
Stadium: Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Cameroon defender Jean-Charles Castelletto has joined forwards Vincent Aboubakar and underappreciated Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting in becoming one of the stories of Group G.

Brazil still needs to find its answer if Neymar cannot return to the fold this tournament. Richarlison and Raphinha have impressed but still need to show they can really carry the attack without Neymar. Could Gabriel Jesus shine in his absence?


Cameroon quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 43
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 8
How they qualified: Qualified from CAF playoffs
Coach: Rigobert Song
Key players: Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, Vincent Aboubakar, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting

Brazil quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 1
World Cup titles: 5 (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)
World Cup appearances: 22
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONMEBOL (1st place)
Coach: Tite
Key players: Neymar, Thiago Silva, Casemiro, Alisson Becker

Serbia vs Switzerland: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Serbia and Switzerland seek a win that could seal a place in the World Cup Round of 16 when they meet Friday in Doha.

The Swiss can qualify with a win, or a draw if Cameroon beats Brazil and tiebreakers stay in Switzerland’s favor. The Swiss beat Cameroon 1-0 in Al Wakrah but lost to Brazil by the same score in Doha.

STREAM LIVE SERBIA vs SWITZERLAND

Serbia started its tournament with a 2-0 loss to Brazil In Lusail before drawing a wild six-goal thriller with Cameroon In Al Wakrah.

Serbia qualifies with a win if Cameroon doesn’t beat Brazil. If Serbia and Cameroon both win, Serbia would need to take the lead in goal differential.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for Serbia vs Switzerland.


How to watch Serbia vs Switzerland live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Friday Dec. 2
Stadium: Stadium 974, Doha
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Three different goal scorers hit the sheet in the draw with Cameroon, and Fulham star Aleksandar Mitrovic remains a threat to score every game. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic continues to show huge value in the center of the pitch.

Breel Embolo has Switzerland’s only goal and will be continue to be a focal point, while Man City defender Manuel Akanji, Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka, and Nottingham Forest’s Remo Freuler make the Swiss a tough team to break down.


Serbia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 21
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 12
How they qualified: Qualified from UEFA via playoffs
Coach: Dragan Stojkovic
Key players: Aleksandar Mitrovic, Luka Jovic, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Dusan Tadic

Switzerland quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 15
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 12
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (1st place)
Coach: Murat Yakin
Key players: Granit Xhaka, Xherdan Shaqiri, Yann Sommer, Remo Freuler

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