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Top 25 players in the USMNT pool right now

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January camp is over following the USMNT’s 1-0 defeat of Costa Rica, but most of the movement on our player pool power rankings comes courtesy of the club game.

Save for Uly Llanez’s “I’m here” performance in that win over Los Ticos, most of the interim has been dominated by Americans Abroad.

Heck, Llanez is included in that; The 18-year-old has 10 goals and three assists in 11 games for Wolfsburg’s U-19 side.

Our first rankings came Nov. 12, four days before Gregg Berhalter’s Yanks rolled over Cuba and Canada to earn a spot in the CONCACAF Nations League semifinals.

This ranking comes almost two months before we’ll next see the red, white, and blue; The USMNT visits Netherlands and Wales on March 26 and 30.

As a reminder, here are 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 Chris Richards of Bayern Munich II is a better long-term prospect than 32-year-old Tim Ream, but most would rather have the Fulham man in a big spot right now.

Dropping out of our Top 25 are Cristian Roldan, Ike Opara, Fabian Johnson, Paul Arriola, Cameron Carter-Vickers, and Jackson Yueill.

Moving up two spots to second is Weston McKennie, who has become a key piece for another Schalke boss, while Wigan left back Antonee Robinson and Derby County midfielder Duane Holmes enter the list with bullets.

Two other Championship players, Matt Miazga and Tim Ream, slip down the board, but not as far as struggling Newcastle right back DeAndre Yedlin.

Who takes their places? Read on…

Top 25 USMNT players – February 2020

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#injured

1. Christian Pulisic, Chelsea# (1) — Get well soon.
2. Weston McKennie, Schalke (4)
3. John Brooks, Wolfsburg (3)
4. Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig (2) — Healthy, and back starting.
5. Sergino Dest, Ajax (6)
6. Duane Holmes, Derby County (N/R) — Man’s on fire.
7. Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf (5)
8. Jordan Morris, Seattle Sounders (7)
9. Zack Steffen, Fortuna Dusseldorf (10)
10. Antonee Robinson, Wigan Athletic (N/R) — Almost AC Milan!
11. Jozy Altidore, Toronto FC (12)
12. Julian Green, Greuther Furth# (15)
13. Giovanni Reyna, Borussia Dortmund (N/R) — What a goal.
14. Timothy Weah, Lille# (14)
15. Timothy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt (N/R) — Incredible resurgence.
16. Tim Ream, Fulham (13)
17. Matt Miazga, Reading (8)
18. Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen (9)
19. Miles Robinson, Atlanta United (23)
20. Ulysses Llanez, Wolfsburg U-19 (N/R) — Go on, son.
21. Tyler Boyd, Besiktas (21)
22. DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle United (11)
23. Reggie Cannon, FC Dallas (N/R)
24. Michael Bradley, Toronto FC# (18)
25. Sebastian Lletget, LA Galaxy (22)

Next up, established: Fabian Johnson (Borussia Monchengladbach), Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas), Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes), Arriola (DC United), Carter-Vickers (Luton Town), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew), Roldan (Seattle Sounders), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids), Opara (Minnesota United)

Next up, youth: Indiana Vassilev (Aston Villa), Konrad de la Fuente (Barcelona), Alex Mendez (Ajax U19), Chris Richards (Bayern Munich II), Richie Ledezma (PSV Eindhoven), Donovan Pines (DC United)

How will USMNT line up versus Costa Rica?

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Saturday brings a first look at the United States men’s national team in 2020, though Gregg Berhalter’s bunch won’t look anything like its best self.

The Yanks have an almost exclusively MLS roster for the match, with Hobro’s Christian Cappas, Wolfsburg II’s Uly Llanez and unattached 17-year-old Bryang Kayo in the fold.

Many of Berhalter’s best MLS stars won’t be in Carson either for the 3:55 p.m. ET Saturday kickoff. Jordan Morris, Jozy Altidore, and Michael Bradley are the biggest names.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]  

Ronald Gonzalez’s Ticos will be similarly hampered, although more of Costa Rica’s A-side play in MLS and domestically.

We’ll leave the breakdown of the visitors for a later date, but who will rep the U.S. in Saturday’s Starting XI?

The travel roster includes keepers Sean Johnson, Bill Hamid, and Matt Turner, as well as defenders Aaron Long, Walker Zimmerman, Reggie Cannon, Julian Araujo, Chase Gasper, Justen Glad, Mark McKenzie, and Sam Vines. Listed midfielders Sebastian Lletget, Jackson Yueill, Brenden Aaronson, Cappis, Kayo, and Brandon Servania are joined by forwards Gyasi Zardes, Paul Arriola, Jonathan Lewis, Jesus Ferreira, and Ulysses Llanez.

Goalkeeper is anyone’s guess, but Johnson’s got the most run of the three during the Berhalter era. The younger Turner or more accomplished Hamid may step in there.

It would be surprising to see any other center backs besides Walker Zimmerman and Aaron Long given what we know of Berhalter and his respect for regulars. Reggie Cannon should start at right back and it’s between Chase Gasper and Sam Vines for the left. We’ll choose Vines out of intrigue.

Jackson Yueill, Paul Arriola, Sebastian Lletget, and Gyasi Zardes are safe bets to start, and this would seem a spot to give Jonathan Lewis more than subs’ run. That leaves one spot, and we’re pegging Brandon Servania to be the one chosen of four midfielders aged 17-20.

There’s also the matter of whether FC Dallas striker Jesus Ferreira will be internationally cleared to play Saturday. We sure hope he will be!

How do you think Berhalter will line them up?


How Berhalter may go

Johnson

Cannon — Zimmerman — Long — Vines

Yueill — Servania

Arriola — Lletget — Lewis

Zardes


What we’d like to see

Turner

Cannon — Zimmerman — McKenzie — Vines

Yueill — Cappis — Servania

Arriola — Ferreira — Lewis

Watch our transfer deadline day show from 6-8 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com.

USMNT’s Bradley suffers serious ankle injury; Altidore hits out

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USMNT midfielder Michael Bradley will reportedly be out for up to four months due to an ankle injury he suffered playing for Toronto FC in the 2019 MLS Cup final against Seattle. That was the MLS Cup final, in November.

The TFC skipper, 32, suffered the serious ankle injury during the game and per reports he has been rehabbing the ankle over the past two months. However, that hasn’t had the desired effect and now ankle surgery is his only option.

Via Joshua Kloke from The Athletic, TFC’s General Manager Ali Curtis confirmed that Bradley will have ankle surgery in New York City on Tuesday. Curtis added that “surgery was a last resort and club believed they could rehab injury.”

Bradley’s teammates with Toronto and USMNT, Jozy Altidore, then hit out at the handling of the situation as Toronto will be without their leader for almost half of thee MLS season.

“Make no mistake. In my opinion, for me, it was handled poorly,” Altidore told reporters as TFC returned to practice on Monday, as he insinuated that Bradley was put in a tough position by the club over his injury.

The injury will reportedly keep him out for at least four months, meaning he will miss a huge chunk of the MLS season and also the USMNT’s friendlies against the Netherlands (March 26) and Wales (March 30).

This is a hammer blow for Toronto as Bradley led the organization on and off the pitch since he arrived in 2014, reaching three MLS Cup finals in the last four seasons. He only signed a new contract with Toronto FC over the offseason as his previous deal expired but it will be intriguing to see how this all plays out as Altidore obviously believes this situation could have been handled a lot better.

USMNT fans will now focus on having some of their younger players take the lead in central midfield in March and maybe beyond, with Tyler Adams now back to full fitness as he looks set to become Gregg Berhalter’s go-to guy in midfield.

Bradley’s displays in recent seasons have been lamented by USMNT fans but Berhalter has made him an integral part of his plans and he is one of the few players who survived the massive cull from the 2018 World Cup qualifying debacle. Losing Bradley for this amount of time is a big blow for club and country.

The USMNT player pool in Europe is as promising as ever

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It would be a challenge to put together a Best XI from Americans performing in Europe this Saturday.

That’s for two reasons, not one of them because there aren’t 11 players worthy of the honor.

One is goalkeepers: Zack Steffen is hurt and Ethan Horvath backing up Simon Mignolet.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

The other is pretty great: There are many more than 11 players thriving in Europe even with Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Zack Steffen, and Timothy Weah not available for selection.

It’s a weekly thing now. Gregg Berhalter trains a strong and mostly-MLS squad for January friendlies, The Americans Abroad round-ups on our site have shown plenty of progress for those eligible for the USMNT.

There was a time when Haji Wright coming off the bench for VVV-Venlo in the Netherlands had a shot at being the highlight of the weekend.

Now it’s a footnote. The 21-year-old is a regular for the relegation-threatened side after a transfer from Schalke. If anything, the discussion is about two in-a-row off the bench after a run of 10-straight league starts.

Consider this list of players, now that Aston Villa’s Indiana Vassilev and Borussia Dortmund’s Giovanni Reyna made league debuts in the same weekend.

First team players in top tier leagues

Zack Steffen (Man City, on loan to Dusseldorf)
Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge)
DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United)
Sergino Dest (Ajax)
John Brooks (Wolfsburg)
Alfredo Morales (Fortuna Dusseldorf)
Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig)
Weston McKennie (Schalke)
Christian Pulisic (Chelsea)
Tyler Boyd (Besiktas)
Indiana Vassilev (Aston Villa)
Haji Wright (VVV Venlo)
Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund)
Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen)
Tim Weah (Lille)

Dig deeper and there’s more: Matt Miazga (Reading), Tim Ream (Fulham), Geoff Cameron (QPR), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham Hotspur), Antonee Robinson (Wigan Athletic), and Duane Holmes (Derby County) have been regulars in the English Championship. Same for Julian Green (Greuther Furth) in 2.Bundesliga and in-form Lynden Gooch at League One’s Sunderland. Niko Hamalainen (Kilmarnock) is a regular starter in the Scottish Premiership.

Then there are heralded U-20 and U-17 prospects Chris Gloster (Jong PSV), Chris Richards (Bayern Munich II), Richie Ledezma (PSV Eindhoven), Alex Mendez (Ajax), Sebastian Soto (Hannover 96), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional), Ulysses Lainez (Wolfsburg II). Some have taken first team bows while others have made the bench or ar eon the verge.

And we’re just talking Europe here, as the U.S. still has a bevy of reliable international players playing domestically like Jordan Morris, Miles Robinson, and Jozy Altidore amongst others. That’s leaving alone the caliber of Homegrown players being produced by Major League Soccer academies, Paxton Pomykal and Djordje Mihailovic among them (Reyna and Richards, too).

In terms of potential, American soccer is at a golden age. This makes Brian McBride’s new role as USMNT general manager even more important, as he teams up with Gregg Berhalter to put the best possible American team together for qualifying.

One thing’s for sure, the player pool is deep and no longer an excuse. Game on.

Report: MLS discussing significant change to Designated Player Rule

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Major League Soccer is toying with a change to its roster structure aimed at spreading the wealth, according to The Athletic’s Sam Stejskal.

That’s both a literal and figurative turn of phrase.

Currently, the league allows teams three Designated Players. Put too simply: a Designated Player is a player that is considered outside the team’s salary cap.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Some of the biggest names in league history have come via the DP rule, and they’ve brought immense cred to the league: Wayne Rooney, Cuauhtémoc Blanco, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Sebastian Giovinco, David Beckham, and Didier Drogba are a handful of players who fit the bill.

Well now the league is aiming at making sure at least one of the three DPs is under the age of 23, which would eliminate DP triumvirates like Toronto FC’s uniting of Giovinco, Michael Bradley, and Jozy Altidore.

The idea is that players under the age of 23 bring a lot more money to the table when they are sold than the the older guys.

The new plan would break down something like this, via The Athletic:

Sources said that the league and its influential product strategy committee are considering a new set of DP rules designed to more strongly encourage the signing of younger players. Under these new rules, if none of a team’s three DPs are under 23 years old, the annual spend for one of those players would be capped at a sum of $1 million plus that season’s maximum budget charge. In 2019, that total would’ve been $1.53 million, or the upper limit for a player who could be bought down using targeted allocation money. If teams have at least one U-23 DP, they would be able to spend any amount on all three of their DPs.

Stejskal cites sources as saying it’s not just about making money for its coffers, but that it could help close the gap between those spending boatloads and those not quite willing to do that.

My opinion? I don’t like it, unless the league is going to let all of the sale money stay with the individual clubs.

There has to be another to encourage teams to sign young bucks without taking away from the people bringing neutral fans to the table. And if a team feels it’ll get more acclaim from three David Villas than three Matias Pelegrinis well, which name did the average fan need to look up?

Take your average U-23 hot shot who’s yet to reach his peak. He may score some bangers and capture the league’s imagination a la Miguel Almiron. And that’s great, especially Atlanta, Portland, Seattle, and other markets which have really embraced their clubs regardless of the stars’ identities.

Some of that is myopic, and the league’s progress has rocketed because of players from all over the planet. Scientifically speaking, MLS is 100 times better than it was even 10 years ago. To put age restrictions on DPs in order to fuel transfer fees not just for clubs, but for the league itself? Nah.

Finally, I have to beg a little bit of ignorance to the incredibly complicated world which is the MLS rulebook. If I’m missing something, well, I’m sure I’m not the only one.