Team-by-team guide: 2022 USMNT World Cup preview

To prepare you for the tournament, The18 has launched team-by-team previews for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. This is the preview for Group B's USMNT.

USA World Cup 2022 Preview

World Cup appearances: 11th

Best finish: 3rd (1930)

How they got here: The USMNT qualified directly as Concacaf's third-place finisher, behind Canada and Mexico and above Costa Rica on goal difference. 

Coach: Gregg Berhalter (American)

Strongest XI: (4-3-3) Matt Turner; Jedi Robinson, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Walker Zimmerman, Sergiño Dest; Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, Yunus Musah; Christian Pulisic, Josh Sargent, Gio Reyna 

Injuries: Miles Robinson (out, Achilles), Chris Richards (out, hamstring) 

What's to like: Mexico looked set for a period of Concacaf dominance with Tata Martino leading a veteran squad while the U.S. started fresh this cycle, but the Americans won the inaugural Nations League, reclaimed the Gold Cup and went undefeated against El Tri in qualifying. 

It might be the youngest squad in Qatar but it's one that's already tested itself in Europe more than any American generation before it. Christian Pulisic's international record — 21 goals in 52 caps — is a testament to his consistency in the Stars and Stripes, and the Chelsea winger's impact has been complimented by the emergence of first team regulars Weston McKennie (Juventus), Tyler Adams, Brenden Aaronson (both Leeds), Jedi Robinson (Fulham) and Sergiño Dest (Milan). 

Manager Gregg Berhalter was installed to bring the team forward from its calamitous 2018 qualifying failure and to develop a progressive style of play, but the U.S. continues to love nothing more than a backs-against-the-wall performance led by standout center back Walker Zimmerman (Nashville).

What's not to like: The quest to transform a potential golden generation of players into a tactically sophisticated attacking unit under the vision of Berhalter hasn't been without growing pains. The team suffered qualifying defeats to Canada, Costa Rica and Panama, and a recent friendly defeat to Japan really highlighted how, in the face of organized pressure, a commitment to building from the back can lead to large periods of duress and panic.

There's a lack of an established goalscoring threat beyond Pulisic, and there are still questions over who'll lead the line against Wales. Likewise, no one has emerged as Zimmerman's partner at the heart of defense since the team lost Miles Robinson to an Achilles injury. The goalkeeper position has also been something of a wild ride throughout the cycle, but Matt Turner seems locked in as the No. 1 despite playing a backup role to Aaron Ramsdale at Arsenal. 

X-Factor: 19-year-old Borussia Dortmund prodigy Gio Reyna, the son of former USMNT captain Claudio, is a liquid footballer who's poetry in motion in the attacking third. His trajectory, however, has been stalled by a series of muscular injuries.

Best hair: Josh Sargent 

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Most likely to fuck it all up: Aaron Long could certainly partner Zimmerman in defense, and their pairing is generally nerve-racking from the first minute to the last.   

What will make this a good World Cup: Vanquishing Wales' golden generation and reaching the last-16. 

Bonus prediction: Even if the USMNT reaches the knockout stage, U.S. Soccer fires Berhalter and plots a different course toward 2026 with a high-profile foreign coach.        

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