The next FIFA World Cup is scheduled to kick off in November of 2022, the first to ever be held in Qatar. With the US men’s national team’s upcoming friendlies and Nations League matches cancelled or postponed, the next time the team takes the field could very well be a World Cup Qualifier.
The USMNT failed to qualify for the previous edition in Russia after a historic loss in Trinidad and Tobago in 2017, but the current squad is young, hungry, and led by a manager in Gregg Berhalter who is eager to prove himself to the critics.
With an eye towards 2022, here are the top 25 USMNT prospects that could help secure the team a spot in Qatar and potentially lead the team to a successful run once there. Note: Players are shown with their names, clubs and ages (by the time the 2022 World Cup begins).
25. Jesús Ferreira, FC Dallas (21)
A rising star who received his first USMNT cap this past January in a friendly vs. Costa Rica, Ferreira is a Dallas homegrown player who broke out in 2019 with 8 goals and 6 assists in 33 games, leading his club to the playoffs.
A dynamic forward with an eye for goal, Ferreira could be an answer to any goal-scoring problems the US has en route to Qatar. He is the son of David Ferreira, a former FC Dallas midfielder who earned 39 caps for the Colombia national team.
24. Miles Robinson, Atlanta United (25)
Having cemented a key role for one of the top teams in MLS, playing in every game for Atlanta in 2019, Robinson is seen by many as the heir apparent at center back for the USMNT.
Already an MLS Cup and US Open Cup winner, he made his USMNT debut last year in a friendly loss to Mexico. If he keeps growing under Frank de Boer at Atlanta, he will fight for a spot on the plane to Qatar.
23. Alex Mendez, Ajax (22)
Having dazzled at the Under-20 level, scoring 8 goals in 14 games for the United States U-20 team, Ajax signed this industrious midfielder to a three-year deal last year after youth stints at LA Galaxy and Freiburg.
Blessed with a fiery left foot and sharp passing, Mendez could evolve as the total package for club and country. He spent the last season with Ajax’s reserve team, where he scored one goal in 17 appearances.
22. Jackson Yueill, San Jose Earthquakes (25)
A defensive midfielder capable of keeping defenses organized and compact, Yueill has blossomed under Matías Almeyda in San Jose and could evolve into a solid backup to Tyler Adams on the USMNT.
The sixth overall pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, Yueill scored 3 goals and picked up 5 assists in a breakout 2019, when he also made his national debut under Berhalter.
21. Sebastian Soto, Norwich City (22)
A prolific goal-scorer for US youth national teams, Soto’s technical quality in the box could see him rise to full national team very quickly. A solid and productive season for new club Norwich City will do just that.
He scored 6 goals in 11 appearances for the US U-20s and finished tied for second in goals in the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Poland.
20. Ulysses Llanez, Wolfsburg (21)
The LA Galaxy product has yet to make his first team debut in the Bundesliga but shined in his first game for the USMNT in January, when he scored the only goal from the penalty spot in a friendly vs. Costa Rica.
Llanez is a dangerous and exciting winger that is one of the Americans’ best attacking talents going forward. Before signing for Wolfsburg last year, he made 12 appearances for LA Galaxy II in the USL Championship, scoring two goals.
19. Jozy Altidore, Toronto FC (33)
The oldest player on this list, Altidore is the third all-time leading scorer of the USMNT with 42 goals and remains the most experienced and dangerous goal-scorer the Americans have. His hold-up play can be useful coming off the bench if he can stay healthy.
He scored 11 goals and added 7 assists in 22 appearances for Toronto last season, and remains 15 goals shy of the USMNT record set by Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey (57).
18. Paul Arriola, DC United (27)
A winger who has proven himself a useful cog in Berhalter’s system, Arriola is a supporting player who adds to the attack and has picked up a few new tools since pairing with Wayne Rooney and Luciano Acosta at DC United.
He scored 3 goals in 14 appearances for the USMNT in 2019 while scoring 6 goals in 22 games for DC United. He’s a player you want on the team to help mentor the younger players and will likely be on that plane to Qatar.
17. Sebastian Lletget, LA Galaxy (30)
Lletget, when not being set back by injuries, is one of the calmest presences on the ball in the pool. He is a smooth and creative option at a variety of attacking roles and 2022 could be his chance to shine on the international level.
Known in pop circles as the boyfriend of singer Becky G, Lletget scored 3 goals and added 6 assists for the Galaxy under Guillermo Barros Schelotto in 2019.
16. Matt Miazga, Reading, on loan from Chelsea (27)
Chelsea saw the potential in Miazga, who has been sent on loan three times since signing for the Premier League giants, and has followed through with an encouraging past year. His solid showing in the 2019 Gold Cup proved that he has a place in the USMNT program moving forward.
His latest loan stint at Reading in the EFL Championship has given him a comfortable home and the necessary game fitness to thrive. It will be interesting to see if he returns to Chelsea or continues to progress at Reading.
15. Paxton Pomykal, FC Dallas (22)
An exciting young leader who is already one of the best central midfielders in MLS, he plays with a remarkable kind of positional intelligence and distribution that is rare in the USMNT pool. He will likely be playing for a European club by the time the World Cup comes, which will continue to raise his stock.
The year 2019 was a big one for Pomykal, as he started for the US at last year’s U-20 World Cup, scored 2 goals in 20 appearances for Dallas, was named an MLS All-Star and received his first full cap with the US in a friendly against Uruguay.
14. Chris Richards, Bayern Munich (22)
A highly-regarded youth national team prospect who is nearly ready for his primetime role, Richards is currently putting in minutes for Bayern Munich II, scoring 2 goals in 22 appearances in the 3. Bundesliga.
He started all five matches in the 2019 U-20 World Cup, and his next step is to get on the field for the first team, which will undoubtedly accelerate his progress towards the full US team.
13. Reggie Cannon, FC Dallas (24)
A solid right-back option with proven leadership qualities, Cannon has put forth tremendous effort in every USMNT game he’s played and will be a candidate for a starting place once World Cup qualifying commences.
A regular for both FC Dallas and the US the last two seasons, a European move could push him further up this list and raise his stock on the international level.
12. Jordan Morris, Seattle Sounders (28)
Ever since getting called up to the USMNT while still in college at Stanford, Morris has become a polarizing attacking talent who is able to play at striker or on the wing. He returned brilliantly from a 2018 ACL tear to an MLS Cup-winning 2019 when he was named MLS Comeback Player of the Year.
He scored 5 goals in 14 appearances for the US in 2019 while scoring 10 in 26 for Seattle in their championship-winning season.
11. Aaron Long, New York Red Bulls (30)
A tough and reliable defender for both club and country in recent years, Long’s meteoric rise in the American soccer pyramid has been impressive for this late bloomer. The 2018 MLS Defender of the Year emerged as a national team starter in the 2019 Gold Cup, where he earned Best XI honors for the tournament.
He scored 3 goals in 14 appearances for the US in 2019, which is an incredible feat for a player who was unemployed without a club just a few years ago.
10. DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle United (29)
A versatile attacking defender with World Cup experience, Yedlin has cemented a place as an effective performer in the English Premier League and serves as the most capped defender in the current USMNT pool.
Having scored one goal in 12 appearances for Newcastle this past season, he needs consistency. If Berhalter believes in him, he can certainly morph into more of a national team leader on a young squad.
9. Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen (22)
An emergent talent who has had his share of recent ups and downs, Sargent remains the Americans’ best hope for a go-to center striker in ‘22. His potential is enormous but his work ethic has been criticized by fans, as he’s scored just 3 goals in 21 appearances this season in the Bundesliga.
He’s still very young, and consistency should come with more minutes in the German top flight. Getting more national games in with the support of Pulisic and Reyna should help him keep finding the net for the USMNT, for which he’s scored 5 goals in 12 games.
8. Timothy Weah, Lille (22)
Having been sidelined by injuries over the last year, Weah has only made 3 appearances for Lille. The New York Red Bulls and PSG product, however, is terrifyingly fast and is able to make wonderful decisions on the ball unlike any other in the current US pool.
The son of former Ballon d’Or winner and current President of Liberia, George Weah, Timothy has the ability to play any attacking position and needs a solid full season at Lille to prove that he has the consistency to go with his many talents.
7. Giovanni Reyna, Borussia Dortmund (19)
The son of USMNT legend Claudio, Gio Reyna burst onto the scene in the Bundesliga as a creative playmaker who has already proven that he can score stunning goals at the highest level. He broke Christian Pulisic’s record as the youngest American to play in the UEFA Champions League and scored against PSG in the knockout round, and his club coach admits “you can see that he has something special.”
His 12 appearances in Bundesliga and UCL this season at the age of 17 is unprecedented for an American, and he is a bona fide one to watch in the run-up to ‘22.
6. Zach Steffen, Fortuna Düsseldorf, on loan from Manchester City (27)
The #1 keeper in the program for the foreseeable future, Steffen could see his stock rise if the rumors that Pep Guardiola wants him back at Manchester City are true. His 17 appearances for Fortuna Düsseldorf this season after a successful stint at Columbus Crew have helped him grow, but would sitting on the bench behind Ederson at City be the best move for his development?
As long as he continues to get minutes, Steffen will be a lock as a US starter for years while improving his game as a world-class shot-stopper.
5. Sergiño Dest, Ajax (22)
An ascendent talent rumored to be on both Bayern Munich and Barcelona’s wish lists, Dest’s choice of the US over the Netherlands last year turned out to be the highlight of the year for a program that needs wins.
Named US Soccer Young Male Athlete of the Year in 2019 and Ajax Talent of the Year in 2020, Dest is a flashy attacking wing back that can play on either side, and fills a void that has been left ever since the retirement of DaMarcus Beasley. His form for Ajax this year has turned heads and a move to a bigger club seems to be in his destiny.
4. John Brooks, Wolfsburg (29)
The leader for the Americans in the back, John Brooks is the towering force that scored the famous winning goal over Ghana in the 2014 World Cup and is sure to lead the line if the US qualifies in ‘22.
When he is healthy, he is the best defender in the pool, but he has only played 53 games since moving to Wolfsburg in 2017 and hasn’t been in every USMNT camp. He needs more consistency for club and country but the talent and leadership is there.
3. Weston McKennie, Schalke 04 (24)
McKennie has risen in recent years as both a leader on the national team and as a tenacious young midfielder in the German top flight. If he can stay healthy, he will be an absolute force as a box-to-box player that makes difficult plays and scores ridiculous goals. His five goals for the USMNT were tied for second overall on the team in 2019.
His coaches, both for club and country, need to figure out what his best position is, but when he is on his game he is undoubtedly one of the best talents in the Bundesliga.
2. Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig (23)
An incredibly versatile talent who can play essentially any position, Adams may be the US’s most important player. He is equal parts destroyer and creative as he has an uncanny ability to free up space for others while covering the entire field.
His 18 appearances for RB Leipzig have helped his club rise in the table and he hasn’t looked back from the brilliant start of his career at New York Red Bulls. It will be interesting to see if Berhalter deploys him as a defensive mid or as a right back, but either way he is a potential captain for the USMNT.
1. Cristian Pulisic, Chelsea (24)
Coming off an above-average first season at Chelsea, scoring 5 goals in 16 league appearances, he has the potential to be one of the best attackers in the Premier League by the next World Cup, a tournament that can set him apart as one of the best players in the world. He’ll need to step up as a leader, but after missing out on qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, he’ll be motivated to pioneer a brand new era for US Soccer.