Once every four years the average American who doesn’t care about soccer pretends to be a diehard fan. The reason is the World Cup. While it might sound like I’m complaining, I’m not. I actually look forward to having loads of new American soccer fans to talk about the beautiful game with, but with the 2022 World Cup being a while away it seems like I will be forced to wait.
American fans are anxiously waiting to get their first glimpse of the new generation on the world stage in 2022, and while I’m expecting a solid performance, the World Cup I’m most excited for is the United States hosted World Cup in 2026.
The breakthroughs of Sergino Dest, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams, in addition to a superstar in Christian Pulisic has many excited to see this team play. And this team for once is filled with talent, talent that is competing at and alongside the highest levels imaginable, but the talent is not mature yet, neither is its supporting cast.
The names I mentioned nor many of the other names that are being floated around as potential key pieces for the future have reached their athletic primes.
Dest, a mere 19 years old, and fresh off a transfer to Spanish giants FC Barcelona is a very refined attacking winger with great defensive upside. Dest plays great crosses from the wing and has natural athletic gifts that must make men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter salivate over his potential. But, Dest needs to improve his defensive technique and intelligence if he wants to become one of the world’s premier right backs.
McKennie himself transferred from struggling German side FC Schalke to Italian giants Juventus and sees himself sharing the pitch with Cristiano Ronaldo every day. McKennie can be a perfect modern day midfielder and the appointment of the legendary Andrea Pirlo makes McKennie’s potential even higher. Behind many great players are great coaches, and Pirlo may be unproven as a coach, but his soccer intelligence is one of the best the sport has ever seen and every tidbit of knowledge that the former central midfielder passes down to McKennie will be helpful for him in fulfilling his lofty potential.
Adams is growing into himself at german club Red Bull Leipzig, a club that has transformed itself into one of the best in the Bundesliga and is hoping to finally break through as one of the clubs premier players this season. Nonetheless, the New Yorker’s talent is obvious, along with his work rate, but like so many of his American colleagues he just needs time to develop.
That’s the key for the next generation, time and opportunities to develop. Yes, it is hard not to get excited when your favorite team quickly went from cherry picking MLS talent to Champions League talent, but we must, including myself, as fans temper our expectations.
The program is filled with so much talent at every position, even the transition from Tim Howard at goalkeeper finally seems to be set, as Zack Steffen seems well on his way to being one of the world’s elite no. 2 goalkeepers. Dest, Antonee Robinson, and Chris Richards could be centerpieces of a sturdy backline for years to come and the midfield depth is to die for, with the MLS sending more talent over to Europe in recent weeks, with blossoming stars Caden Clark and Brendan Aaronson signing overseas deals.
The attacking side of things just gets more fun with Gio Reyna getting better week-by-week and the depth on the wings getting deeper by the minute. The striker spot seems to be filled by Josh Sargent and while his statistics aren’t amazing there is enough attacking talent around him to where he can be a defensive pest with a high work rate that opens up opportunities for other players in the future, although I do hope a Charlie Kelman or Jesus Ferreira build upon their momentum to turn into a reliable national team level striker, especially with the once promising Sebastian Soto considering a switch to Chile.
The point is that all the players I mentioned throughout the article are young and blossoming, gone are the days of Matt Besler and being excited over a single American prospect being named to the bench of a Dutch side that most have never heard. With players at clubs like Ajax, Juventus and Bayern Munich, among many other big clubs, the golden generation that American soccer fans have been praying for is on its way, they just have to show some patience, so the stars of the future can find their stride.
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