The stretch run of the MLS season carries its own urgency. Who will make the playoffs? Who stays at home? Which people can end outstanding seasons on a high? This time there is a massive twist added as the 2022 World Cup looms on the horizon.
From the looks of it, there are about a dozen players who can handle the added stress of making the United States Men’s World Cup roster. Some have settled in for some time; others are still struggling to snake their way into the roster.
While much of the squad will consist of Europe-based stars such as Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Sergino Dest, around a third of the 26-man squad will come from MLS. With the international window just completed offering some not-so-great data points, the scramble for positions in the squad is still ongoing in some cases.
Locks for Qatar
Walker Zimmerman | Center back | Nashville SC
Zimmerman is about as solid as a lock. He has been a steady contributor and consistent starter since October 2021, when he was initially dropped from the roster. His tackles, dominance in the air, skill at set pieces and consistent passing – despite the game against Japan – make him a certainty to be in Qatar.
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Jesus Ferreira | Forward | FCDallas
Ferreira has enjoyed a stellar season at FC Dallas, scoring 18 goals with five assists. Goals at international level have been harder to come by – four of his seven goals have come in a game against Minnows Grenada – but his willingness to initiate the press and mobility are appreciated by manager Gregg Berhalter, meaning he’ll spend the money Late Autumn in the Middle East.
Kellyn Acosta | Midfielder | LAFC
Even with a 26-man squad, versatility is a valued attribute and Acosta fits right in there, filling in either the midfielder or one of the No. 8 spots. He’s also capable of delivering precise set pieces, which could be a key element for USA if they want to make it to the knockout rounds.
Aaron Long | Center back | New York Red Bulls
Long has failed to impress with his performances in the last two friendlies but with several other centre-backs injured the Red Bulls defender looks all but safe. With the US likely to deploy a high line against opponents, Berhalter appreciates Long’s ability to cover space to the rear.
DeAndre Yedlin | right back | InterMiami CF
In a team heavily weighted towards youth, Yedlin is one of the few players with World Cup experience. His ability to cover both full-back positions is also valuable, although he’s likely to be exclusively a right-back in this team. Reggie Cannon’s recent injury benefits Yedlin.
Jordan Morris | Winger | Seattle Sounders FC
Morris hasn’t quite reached the heights he reached before his knee injury in February 2021 while on loan at Swansea City, but he’s scored seven goals and four assists for Seattle this season and he gives the US a speed option the bench, which is much needed as Timothy Weah is the only other burner on the list.
on the bubble
Paul Arriola | Winger | FCDallas
Arriola has been outstanding for Dallas this season, with a career-high nine goals and six assists. Given that the end product has long been an issue for the Chula Vista, California native, it’s a significant development to go along with his undeniable speed of work. But the winger is likely the deepest position in the squad, meaning he could just miss out.
Sean Johnson | goalkeeper | FC New York City
Johnson did nothing wrong to put himself out of the race for a world championship spot. His performance in a June friendly against Uruguay showed he can play at this level, but with Zack Steffen and Matt Turner battling for first place and Ethan Horvath a regular for Luton Town, Johnson could be the underdog.
Cristian Roldan | Midfielder | Seattle Sounders FC
How valuable is a “glue”? That will ultimately decide whether Roldan makes it. The Seattle midfielder is well respected in the dressing room but the six games he recently missed due to hernia surgery haven’t helped his cause at all and needs elsewhere in the squad at forward and centre-back will likely prevent Roldan from doing so is selected.
Erik Williamson | Midfielder | Portland Woods
A couple of premature injuries have meant Williamson hasn’t had as much time with the USMNT as he otherwise would have, but his ability to carry the ball from midfield combined with an eye for passing pass means he can cannot be fully written off yet. Much will depend on whether Berhalter sees Luca de la Torre’s recent performances as a blip or a cause for greater concern.
Shaq Moore | right back | Nashville SC
Right-back is one of the deeper positions for the USA and that sort of numbers game means Moore is likely to be absent despite some solid performances for Nashville since his summer arrival.
Djordje Mihailovic | Midfielder | CF Montreal
Mihailovic, another player hampered by early injuries, has not been quite the same since he was sidelined with an ankle injury just before the May/June training camp. It will certainly be difficult for him to make the squad at this stage, despite an overall impressive season at Montreal that saw his scoring chances and creativity go up a notch or two.
Gyasi Zardes | Forward | Colorado Rapids
There was a time when Zardes’ move to Qatar seemed inevitable, especially given his previous association with Berhalter. But although he has scored nine goals since moving from the Columbus Crew to the Rapids in April, the fact remains he has been overtaken by several Europe-based forwards as well as Ferreira.
https://www.espn.com/soccer/major-league-soccer/story/4756494/which-mls-based-usmnters-are-going-to-the-world-cup Which MLS-based USMNTers are going to the World Cup?