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Why there is Optimism for the USA Heading into the 2026 World Cup


Why there is Optimism for the USA Heading into the 2026 World Cup

After a World Cup in Qatar that had some promising signs, the United States Men’s National Team will be more hopeful of achieving even more when the country co-hosts the next tournament in four years’ time. Here’s why there could be cause for optimism and hope that the USMNT can push on and enjoy a greater tournament on their home turf in 2026.

Decent Qatar showing

Heading into this year’s World Cup, it’s hard to say what was expected of USA. Gregg Berhalter’s side were placed in a group with one of the tournament favourites, England, along with Wales and Iran. Whilst the expectation was that the Three Lions would cruise through to the knockouts, Wales and Iran are both sides that on their day can be a handful for any team with some players that can cause problems.

The USMNT prevailed to finish as Group B runners-up, a feat in which they managed without tasting defeat. The 2022 campaign saw plenty of promising signs, as well as showing some areas of needed improvement. The first-half performance against Wales was impressive, with the US dominating the British side in midfield and having plenty of chances, with Timothy Weah’s finely taken finish putting the States 1-0 up. However, the Americans failed to adjust to the introduction of Kieffer Moore though and allowed Wales to earn a draw from the game. It showed cracks in the USA, from tactical and experience points of view.

The draw with England was another positive to take away from Qatar for USA, who weren’t fancied at all heading into the Group B clash. Berhalter’s men were able to hold their own though against the Three Lions, with Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie controlling the midfield and stifling out England’s creative players. It allowed the USA to have the best chances in the game, with England somewhat fortunate to come away with a point. It was a sign that the US have the players to go toe-to-toe with the biggest teams in the tournament.

After beating Iran and advancing from Group B, the round of 16 tie with the Netherlands was always going to be a big ask. The US started well and had some big chances, before the quality of Louis van Gaal’s Dutch side shone. Despite the 3-1 defeat, the USA looked decent at the back and assured in midfield. They could have pushed the Netherlands even further if there was an out-and-out centre forward up top that could have got on the end of a chance. All-in-all it was a good display from the USA in Qatar, but there is some room for improvement if they are to face up to the best.

Developing Talent

There is still a long way to go before the US are seen as a team to look out for in the World Cup, but they still possess plenty of star quality that is familiar with top European leagues.

The likes of Christian Pulisic, Sergino Dest, and Weston McKennie have all had experience at Champions League-level clubs and are continuing play in the biggest leagues. Pulisic is the poster boy of the USMNT, making a name for himself in the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund before making 87 appearances (and counting) for Chelsea in the Premier League. At 24 years of age, the winger can still improve and will more than likely still be the main threat for the US in 2026. Dest and McKennie ply their trade in Serie A, with AC Milan and Juventus, respectively.

Plenty of American internationals are featuring regularly for Premier League teams, getting experience beyond the MLS at the best league in the world, which will only benefit the national side. Adams put in some strong performances in Qatar, working hard in the midfield, and is a key man for Jesse March’s Leeds United side. Adams and his Leeds teammate and fellow USMNT international Brendan Aaronson are just 23 and 22 years old respectively and highlight the potential quality the US could have going forward.

There is also the likes of Timothy Weah, son of Ballon d’Or winner George, who turns out for Lille in Ligue 1, Borussia Dortmund starlet Gio Reyna, and 20-year-old Valencia midfielder Yunus Musah – who was very impressive in Qatar. The USMNT have plenty of talented youngsters at some of Europe’s biggest sides in their ranks – who knows how good they could become before the 2026 World Cup.

Home Advantage

The 2026 World Cup will be co-hosted by the USA, along with Canada and Mexico. This could give the USMNT a big boost when playing in front of their own fans. Not only in the stadiums, but as football – not soccer – fever takes over a host nation, it allows the fans to rally behind their nation.

Qatar wasn’t the best example of a home nation feeding on the home advantage, losing all three group games, but the USA will have a stronger team and a bigger chance of success, which the US will be getting behind. With 330 million behind them and bright sparks on the pitch, 2026 could be the year that the USA have a football team that can go a long way in the World Cup.