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Gregg Berhalter is back: These must be his biggest USMNT objectives ahead of the 2026 World Cup

Here's what Berhalter needs to do as U.S. manager ahead of the 2026 World Cup.

5 min read
Design: Peyton Gallaher

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — He’s back.

Six months after his previous contract expired, Gregg Berhalter has returned as coach of the U.S. men’s national team. Berhalter led the team to the Round of 16 at the 2022 World Cup, essentially meeting expectations for the team at that tournament.

The decision to re-hire Berhalter isn’t an exciting one — it’s always more fun to have something new and shiny, and Berhalter isn’t that. The process that led to him being re-hired wasn’t an impressive one, either, at least from the outside. Taking half a year, even with an investigation sucking time and resources away from the process, just to recycle the same manager feels…silly.

Still, Berhalter isn’t necessarily a bad choice. By the end of the last World Cup cycle, he had done more good than bad for the United States.

Off the field, he established a strong team culture that benefited the USMNT even during his time away from the team. Prized multi-national Folarin Balogun quickly feeling welcomed into the team is a reflection of that positive culture.

On the field, the U.S. mostly worked towards a useful style of play that helped maximize the talent within the player pool. There have been frustrating moments, too. Between struggles against Mexico in 2019, poor lineup and personnel choices sprinkled throughout 2022 World Cup qualifying, and being slow to change personnel and to evolve tactically, Berhalter has made mistakes.

With Berhalter now heading into his second cycle in charge of the USMNT, there is very real room for the team to improve. Some of that, of course, will come through the isolated improvement of individual players. Managers aren’t all-seeing, all-powerful chess players moving players around the board as they chose. So often, winning soccer games comes down to which team has more and better talent than the other. Still, at least some of the U.S.’s necessary improvement ahead of the 2026 World Cup on home soil must come from Berhalter. His decisions — both tactical and personnel-based — will impact the team.

With that impact in mind, here are some of the biggest items on Berhalter’s to-do list on the march towards 2026.

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