The U.S. men’s national team is a World Cup–caliber team once again, having polished off its qualification for this year’s competition in Qatar.
Gregg Berhalter resorted to a larger player pool in order to get there, and for good reason. Until now, the USMNT's qualifying process has never been so difficult.
Playing over the course of a compressed seven-month span due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. squeezed in 14 matches across five windows, four of which featured three matches in seven days.
Couple that travel and match demand with the workload these players are already taking on at their clubs and the COVID-19 curveballs that have complicated roster and logistical planning.
It’s the second-most ever used in a U.S. qualification cycle, with 43 called upon in the 2010 cycle—but that encompassed 18 matches and multiple rounds against varying levels of competition.
Now, after cultivating his player pool across friendlies, the Concacaf Nations League, Gold Cup and qualifying, and growing the number of reliable options, Berhalter faces the opposite task
Unless FIFA adopts roster expansion like UEFA did for last summer’s Euros, when teams were granted a 26-player allotment Berhalter will need to make some incredibly difficult choices.
Players who may have come up with key moments on the qualifying road could wind up spectators. Injuries as always will play a factor as well. The U.S. has never had what most would consider its true
There are many variables that could alter the equation over the next eight months. There always tend to be late wild cards that throw a wrench in planning as well.