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USMNT World Cup exit mailbag: Berhalter’s next step, January camp wishlist, and strikers

This post-World Cup exit mailbag cover topics ranging from the USMNT’s managerial position to the team’s lack of depth to a January Camp wishlist.

5 min read

Quick Hits

  • As we look ahead to the next men’s World Cup cycle, we asked for your United States men’s national team questions on Twitter — and you delivered
  • In today’s mailbag, we’ll cover topics ranging from the USMNT’s managerial position to the team’s lack of depth to a January Camp wishlist

I like getting mail. I know the whole paper thing is mostly out of style at this point, but there’s something about opening a mystery envelope that I enjoy. Asking for your United States men’s national team questions on Twitter after their World Cup exit doesn’t quite scratch the same itch. But hey, it’ll do.

Thank you to everyone who submitted questions. Let’s get to it.

KIRK: ASSUMING BERHALTER LEAVES, WHAT LEVEL OF CLUB AND LEAGUE IS A REASONABLE LANDING SPOT? WHAT DOES THAT TELL US ABOUT HIS LEVEL AS A COACH?

It’s difficult to say what “level” of club current USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter is best suited for, in a similar way to how it’s difficult to assign a transfer value to a player. If Roma are going to pay millions for Bryan Reynolds, who’s going to stop them? If a sizable European team is in one of the continental competitions like Berhalter and want to hire him, who’s going to stop them?

Now, that said, we can still pare down the club field.

Berhalter will undoubtedly want to progress with his next job (if he takes a new job). That means we’re looking at a European club coaching position. As a relatively young manager — Berhalter is 49 — who had a set of mostly strong results during his time in charge of the U.S., it wouldn’t surprise me at all if a mid-table Bundesliga club went after him. He’s played in Germany and he’s been to Germany plenty of times to check in with players over the last few years.

It doesn’t have to be a Bundesliga team, but a mid-table club in a strong European league that could challenge for a Europa League spot feels about right, doesn’t it? I don’t think Berhalter is a top-level international manager, but he’s made something of a name for himself over the last few years.

Also, it doesn’t look like Berhalter is exactly in a rush to get out of U.S. Soccer. We’ll learn more about his contract talks over the coming weeks.

C. SOLO: CAN WE REALLY GET A TOP MANAGER FOR 2026, AND MORE IMPORTANTLY WILL IT MAKE A SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE?

As far as international management jobs go, I think the U.S. job is one of the most attractive positions out there heading into 2026.

Getting to work with a young, exciting team that, by all accounts, is filled with enjoyable personalities? Check. Getting to be one of the faces of the massive, over-the-top show that will be the 2026 World Cup? Check. Getting torn apart by USMNT Twitter? Okay, that last one might not be the best selling point. But you get the idea. There are reasons that coaches who want to work on the international side of the sport will want the USMNT job.

The trick is, how many top managers want to coach a national team? You don’t have all that much to do. You aren’t on the training field every day. You’re largely out of the spotlight, compared to the club scene. Judging by the current breakdown between managerial talent at the club level versus the international level, most coaches want to be involved with a club.

So, can the U.S. get a top coach? Sure. Will they? Maybe, but I’m not expecting Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola, or Thomas Tuchel to walk through the door, I’ll say that much. Would it make a significant difference? Not as much of a difference as a deeper and improved World Cup roster will in 2026.

VANDERPLAS: WHO IS YOUR BEST BET AS THE NUMBER 9 GOING FORWARD?

It’s Josh Sargent. He was the United States’ best No. 9 at the World Cup, which should count for something. We should also note that this World Cup is one of the only teams that the U.S. has been mostly healthy, so that Sargent worked with the team’s midfield and wide attacking stars, he should get more looks in 2023.

And he will, I’m sure. And so will a host of others. The truth is that there won’t be any star strikers popping out of the woodwork over the next few months. It’s going to take time.

Sargent will continue his development, hopefully getting looks with Norwich as a striker and not a winger. Ricardo Pepi will try to stay in one place long enough to work on his penalty box movement and his pressing. The United States will continue to wait while dual-national Folarin Balogun, who plays for Reims in Ligue 1 on loan from Arsenal, decides his international future. He’s eligible for both England and the United States and he’s a very talented 21-year-old.

As far as I’m concerned, we’re still looking at No. 9 soup for the United States. But Sargent would be my go-to guy for most big games in 2023.

NEIL: WHO WOULD YOU MOST WANT TO GET CALLED UP FOR IN THE 2023 JANUARY FRIENDLIES AND WHY?

No rest for the weary, huh? The USMNT will be back in action in January, playing two friendlies: one against Serbia on January 25 and one against Colombia on January 28. Expect to see a heavily domestic roster, given that the two matches are outside any of FIFA’s international breaks.

With that in mind, I’d like to see some of the younger domestic talents in the pool. Getting left backs John Tolkin and Caleb Wiley a taste of the senior setup would be a good thing. The same goes for Jack McGlynn in central midfield. Speaking of central midfield, I’d like to see Paxton Pomykal, Keaton Parks, and Eryk Williamson involved in January. I don’t think any of those players will reach the “MMA” midfield’s level, but I think they all have the potential to be capable deputies.

It was clear that the United States lacked depth at the 2022 World Cup, so integrating that trio into the pool would be useful. Speaking of a lack of depth…

RICHARD ROLSEN: ONE ISSUE THIS WORLD CUP SEEMED TO BE DEPTH OF THE BENCH. HOW WOULD YOU RATE THE U.S. MEN’S POOL OF TALENT NOW, AND WHERE DO YOU EXPECT IT TO BE IN FOUR YEARS?

It was an issue, at least partially because the USMNT’s player pool is shallower than the truly elite soccer nations.

I don’t know how to rate the U.S. men’s current talent pool, but it sure seems deeper than it has been at any point in the past. And I sincerely think it’s better equipped to actually compete against good teams that it has been in a long time.

In four years time, I expect the United States’ best players to be even better and I expect them to be pushed by some players that you’ve probably never heard of. There’s still an incredibly long way to go in the U.S. when it comes to youth development and talent identification. But I’m optimistic about what the next few years will look like for the USMNT. There’s talent in the pipeline to support the talent that we saw take the field in Qatar.

Now, I’m still not sure there’s enough talent in the pipeline to help the U.S. make the jump from “we’re just happy to get out of our group” to “we should be one of the last teams standing”. But the team will be better in 2026 — or at least the team will have a better chance to be better in 2026.

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