Question:

Which USMNT-eligible player who didn’t feature in World Cup Qualifying has the best chance of making it to the World Cup?

Answer:

Choosing a goalkeeper here feels like a bit of a cop-out. I think there’s a decent chance that Gaga Slonina could end up on the U.S.’s World Cup roster, both because he is a good goalkeeper and because I’m sure Gregg Berhalter and his staff would love for him to not choose representing Poland over the United States. Even if he does make the World Cup team, however, chances are incredibly slim that he would actually see game time in the World Cup. I just can’t envision a world in which Berhalter puts that sort of pressure on a teenager. 

So let’s talk about someone who could feasibly make the roster and also made an impact on the field, shall we?

Forward is still the most glaring position of need in the U.S. setup and has been for literal years now. In qualifying, the team played Josh Sargent, Jordan Pefok, Ricardo Pepi, Gyasi Zardes, and Jesus Ferreira at the position, as well as a handful of other players that could feasibly play as a center forward on the wings. If there’s any striker out there that I would put money on going on some sort of insane run and forcing his way onto the World Cup roster, it’s Daryl Dike. Dike didn’t feature in World Cup qualifying, in part due to injury, but he still has the most intriguing combination of size, speed, and finishing ability in the pool. 

He needs to work on his positioning off the ball still, but what striker in the USMNT pool doesn’t? The simple fact is no one can play the position in the U.S. pool like he can. If he gets healthy and starts producing for West Brom, he’s an easy choice for Qatar.

As an honorable mention: watch out for Haji Wright. After several spells with poor attacking teams, he notched 12 goals and an assist in 1,600 Turkish Super Lig minutes with Antalyaspor. It’s not a league known for its defense, sure, but 0.7 goals per 90 minutes is as good as anyone in the pool, and could lead to a call-up. From there, who knows?

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