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Young Americans compete for World Cup

U.S. men’s World Cup roster features fresh faces with royal soccer bloodlines

Haji Wright (left) and Christian Pulisic during a soccer match against Morocco on June 1 Associated Press/Photo by Jeff Dean, File

Young Americans compete for World Cup

The Apostle Paul tells his young gospel-preaching protégé, Timothy, “Let no one despise your youth” (1 Timothy 4:12).

Apparently, coach Gregg Berhalter took the same advice when assembling the men’s soccer team that will represent the United States at the upcoming World Cup tournament, which will begin Nov. 20 in Qatar. More than half of the U.S. 26-man roster consists of players 25 or younger—including several who come from bloodlines of soccer royalty. Just three players on the squad are in their 30s.

Whether the team’s collective youth will be an asset or a hindrance on soccer’s grandest stage remains to be seen—especially since the United States is in an opening group featuring four teams ranked among the world’s top 20.

Winger Christian Pulisic captains the team—hence his nickname, “Captain America.” Now 24, the Hershey, Pa., native has been suiting up for the U.S. national soccer team since before his 18th birthday and has scored multiple clutch goals in international competition, including two against U.S. archrival, Mexico.

Jesus Ferreira and Tim Weah, two sons of former international stars, will likely start alongside Pulisic in the front row.

Ferreira, a 21-year-old striker, is the son of David Ferreira, who starred for Colombia’s national team and was Major League Soccer’s MVP in 2010 for FC Dallas. The younger Ferreira is a prolific scorer: He has netted seven goals in 15 international matches for the U.S. men and converted a single-season record of 18 goals this year, also for FC Dallas.

Tim Weah, meanwhile, is the son of a foreign leader. The 22-year-old winger’s father, George Weah, is the president of Liberia and FIFA’s 1995 world player of the year. George Weah became the only African-born player to win that award after starring for two of Europe’s top clubs, France’s Paris Saint-Germain and Italy’s AC Milan.

The U.S. team has a solid group of midfielders in Weston McKennie, 19-year-old Yunus Musah, and Tyler Adams—a group collectively referred to as “MMA.” Brenden Aaronson and 20-year-old Gio Reyna—whose father, Claudio, captained the U.S. men’s World Cup teams in 2002 and 2006 and whose mother, Danielle Egan, suited up for the U.S. women’s national team in 2003—can either serve as forwards or attacking midfielders.

The team’s back row includes several elder statesmen: Tim Ream, the squad’s oldest player at 35, was a surprise call-up to the squad after not playing for the national team for more than a year following his withdrawal from three World Cup qualifiers for family reasons in October 2021. Aaron Long, 30, was MLS’ 2018 defender of the year for the New York Red Bulls, and Walker Zimmerman, 29, has been named to MLS’ “Best XI” four years running—something no defender in the history of the league has ever done.

All three of those players should see time at center back. Antonee Robinson and Sergiüo Dest, meanwhile, are likely to start on the outside. Fellow outside back DeAndre Yedlin, 29, is the only American with previous World Cup experience, having started three of the team’s four matches at the 2014 tournament in Brazil.

Starting in goal will be Matt Turner, who was MLS’ goalkeeper of the year with the New England Revolution in 2021 before joining Arsenal of the English Premier League this season.

After failing to qualify for the World Cup tournament in 2018, the U.S. men’s national team is looking to at least equal its performance from 2010, when they reached the Round of 16 before losing to Ghana. Advancing out of group play, however, will be a tough task. The United States—ranked 16th in the world—will play a round-robin against three other teams that are also ranked in the top 20.

Foremost among them is fifth-ranked England, the only team in the group to have won a World Cup. The game is the day after Thanksgiving.

The U.S. men will open against No. 19 Wales on Nov. 21 and face No. 20 Iran on Nov. 29.

As tough as the United States’ group is, it’s nothing compared to the World Cup’s “Group of Death.” That group features two recent champions—Germany, which captured soccer’s biggest prize in 2014, and Spain, which claimed it in 2010. Japan and Costa Rica are in that group, as well.

Brazil enters the World Cup as the planet’s top-ranked team. If this year’s tournament follows the trend of the past several, however, a European team will likely win. Not since Brazil triumphed in 2002 has a team from outside Europe reigned supreme.

Ray Hacke

Ray is a sports correspondent for WORLD Magazine who has covered sports professionally for three decades. He is also a licensed attorney who lives in Keizer, Ore., with his wife Pauline and daughter Ava.



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