Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic, Borussia Dortmund’s Giovanni Reyna and Juventus’ Weston McKennie headline the 26-player roster for the U.S. men’s national team ahead of three World Cup qualifiers.
Pulisic had been a doubt to be called up after contracting COVID-19, but has recovered sufficiently to be on the roster that will contest World Cup qualifiers at El Salvador on Sept. 2, at home against Canada in Nashville three days later, and away to Honduras on Sept. 8.
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While game-day rosters remain at 23 players, the fact that the window contains three games compelled U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter to bring in additional reinforcements. Players will begin reporting to camp in Nashville starting on Sunday.
In terms of World Cup qualifying, the group lacks experience, with just six of those called having previously played in a qualifier. But the current crop of players has been excelling at club level.
Ten players are on clubs that have qualified for the 2021-22 UEFA Champions League group stage: Brenden Aaronson (FC Salzburg), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), John Brooks (VfL Wolfsburg), Sergino Dest (Barcelona), McKennie (Juventus), Jordan Pefok (BSC Young Boys), Pulisic (Chelsea), Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Zack Steffen (Manchester City), Timothy Weah (Lille).
One notable callup is FC Dallas forward Ricardo Pepi. A dual national who can still represent Mexico, Pepi’s emergence this season — where he’s scored nine goals for Dallas — gives the U.S. team additional depth in a position that Berhalter has found difficulty filling. Pepi scored the game-winning penalty in Wednesday’s MLS All-Star Game.
“I want to start by saying that I am a Mexican-American and that I am super proud of my heritage,” Pepi told FCDallas.com. “It’s something that will never be taken away from me, no matter what national team I play for. I made this decision because I felt the USA trusts me and I think that’s due to [USMNT head coach] Gregg Berhalter and how he emphasized this to me.
“I had good talks with Gregg and I feel I can make an impact with the USA and help this national team really do something special now and in the future.”
There was little in the way of surprises, though injuries to the likes of Columbus Crew forward Gyasi Zardes, Orlando City forward Daryl Dike, and Valencia midfielder Yunus Musah limited Berhalter’s options to a degree. But the U.S. team’s success in winning the 2021 Gold Cup while fielding a young and inexperienced lineup, is already bearing fruit. Twenty-four players on the roster played in either the Gold Cup or Concacaf Nations League, which the U.S. also won.
Unlike previous cycles in which six teams contested the final round of qualifying, eight teams will take part this time. The teams will play a round-robin, home and away format which includes 14 matches each.
Due to the global health pandemic, a process which normally takes place during the course of 18 months has been reduced to seven.
Additionally, the condensed schedule includes four ‘triple dates’ consisting of three matches during a seven-day window. The other teams to reached the final round are Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama and Mexico.
Detailed Roster by Position (Club/Country; Caps/Goals):
GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Nottingham Forest/ENG; 7/0), Zack Steffen (Manchester City/ENG; 23/0), Matt Turner (New England Revolution; 7/0)
DEFENDERS (10): George Bello (Atlanta United; 3/0), John Brooks (Wolfsburg/GER; 43/3), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona/ESP; 11/1), Mark McKenzie (Genk/BEL; 6/0), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 45/1), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 12/0), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United; 9/3), James Sands (New York City FC; 6/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray/TUR; 64/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 17/2)
MIDFIELDERS (5): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 37/2), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig/GER; 14/1), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 29/7), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 24/7), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 25/0)
FORWARDS (8): Brenden Aaronson (RB Salzburg/AUT; 7/3), Konrad de la Fuente (Olympique Marseille/FRA; 1/0), Jordan Pefok (BSC Young Boys/SUI; 6/1), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas; 0/0), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 38/16), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 8/4), Josh Sargent (Norwich City/ENG; 16/5), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 13/1)