The World Cup is officially here! With it, the United States Men's National Team has come to Qatar in the hopes of righting many wrongs from previous years. Led by a cast of exciting, young players, the USMNT is hoping to advance far in this iteration of the World Cup. in this preview, we lay out the group stage games and what to look ahead for when the boys in blue take the world center stage.
USMNT's Group and potential matchups
Group Stage Schedule & USMNT Opponents
We start off with the Group Stage, the first round so-to-speak of the World Cup. In the Group Stage, each team plays their group opponents, attempting to earn either first or second place in the group to advance to the Round of 16. In this year's World Cup, the USMNT was drawn into Group B with Iran, Wales, and England. Point systems for the Group Stage work much like hockey, with a win earning three points, a draw earning one point, and a loss worth nothing. The highest points, and when points are tied, then goal differential, will determine who wins the group and who advances.
One of those matches has already been played, with an alarming result of England demolishing Iran 6-1. The English were already looking like a team to be reckoned with, and it was confirmed loudly for the entire world with today's result.
The remaining group schedule:
Monday, November 21st: United States v. Wales- 2:00 PM EST, FOX
Friday, November 25th: Wales v. Iran- 5:00 AM EST, FS1 & United States v. England- 2:00 PM EST, FOX
Tuesday, November 29th: Wales v. England- 2:00 PM EST, FS1 & United States v. Iran- 2:00 PM EST, FOX
Round of 16 and Beyond
If the USMNT is able to advance out of Group B, their placement in the group will determine their next opponent. In a second-place finish, the USMNT would face the winner of Group A (Ecuador, Senegal, Netherlands, Qatar) on December 3rd. With a first-place finish, they would face the second-place team of that group. Either way, it appears the USMNT, if they advance, may come face-to-face with either the Ecuadorians or the Dutch.
The USMNT Squad
In 2022, the USMNT is led by a string of surprising young stars, all with a bevy of top-flight European experience. Of those on the final USMNT World Cup roster, our players have played for the likes of Borussia Dortmund, Chelsea FC, Ajax, Barcelona, Juventus, AC Milan, Fulham, Newcastle United, Galatasaray, RB Leipzig, Leeds United, Valencia, Lille, Werder Bremen, & Paris St. Germain. Needless to say, there is a cavalcade of experience in international play for the United States.
The midfield and forward positions are where the strength of the United States lies. Christian Pulisic is the unquestioned star of the team, playing in the UEFA Champions League and helming the offense for Chelsea FC in that tournament. USMNT Captain Tyler Adams has Premier League experience as well, transferring to Leeds United in 2022 from RB Leipzig. Gio Reyna continues the trend of young United States players helming the iconic black and yellow of Borussia Dortmund. Finally, Sergino Dest may have the most impressive resume of them all, playing for three different world-class organizations across three European leagues.
All of these players will need to step up, as qualifying for the World Cup has made the spotlight shine ever brighter on Gregg Berhalter's squad this holiday season.
USMNT Expectations in 2022 World Cup
My expectations for the USMNT in the 2022 World Cup are to at least reach the Round of 16, as the squad had done in the two previous World Cup appearances in 2010 & 2014. What sets this year apart from previous World Cups however is the amount of top-flight experience and talent that the USMNT finally has. Players like Dest & Reyna have a bevy of quality starts for amazing competition in Europe, doing so while just barely getting their feet wet for international competitions. Pulisic & Adams will need to be the steadying force for the USMNT much in the way that Clint Dempsey & Landon Donvan were in the past.
The group itself has one serious challenge; the English. This England side is arguably a top-five squad in terms of depth and talent in this tournament. Their expectation is even higher than ours, with English soccer fans expecting no less than a semifinal appearance from the Union Jack. Whatever transpires on Black Friday will tell us a great deal of what we can reasonably expect from the USMNT in Qatar.
No matter what happens, the future is very bright for the United States in soccer and I can't wait for the first kick at 2:00 PM today.