Five Storylines and Names to Watch for U.S. Soccer

Via dcunited.com

Five Storylines and Names to Watch for U.S. Soccer

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Five Storylines and Names to Watch for U.S. Soccer

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Via dcunited.com

The World Cup is now past and until the partly-American hosted tournament in 2026, a number of American soccer fans will be destitute of paying attention to their nation’s team and the sport as a whole. For those of you who follow in the meantime, or were hooked by the exploits of Tyler Adams, Christian Pulisic and an ascending American team in Qatar, here’s a quick glimpse into what to keep an eye on until the next World Cup.

 

Five Storylines

-National team manager Gregg Berhalter’s contract is up at the end of the calendar year. While he’s been lauded for his work in attracting dual-national players and his development of the young squad, his tactical decisions and squad selection were in question once again after the Round of 16 loss to Netherlands. Berhalter, who has been in the position since 2018, is at the beginning stages of new contract discussions. An often polarizing figure, Berhalter has his supporters and his critics, but his future should be decided in the not too distant future. 

-In the last rankings of the 2022 calendar year, the Stars and Stripes were ranked 13th, a three-spot improvement from where they were at the beginning of the Qatar World Cup. This also gives them the highest ranking in Concacaf. 

-After being played sparingly in the World Cup, there was much controversy surrounding Gio Reyna. At a leadership summit, detailing an issue where a player was not meeting expectations “on or off the field” and was almost sent home. The player was quickly revealed to be Reyna, who responded in an Instagram post, acknowledging the situation. The 20-year-old Borussia Dortmund midfielder is one of the most promising talents the team has and the revelation, even if supposed to be off the record, has painted Berhalter in a poor light. 

-The 2024 Copa América seems close to being played in the United States. The tournament is normally held for South American teams, although North American teams sometimes participate, like the United States hosted centennial tournament in 2016. Going against the likes of Brazil, Argentina, and the other strong South American teams will be the ideal test for the Americans and its coaching before 2026.

-For the first time since 2008, U.S. soccer will be at the Olympics. The 2024 Parisian games will be a good showcase for young talent, with men’s soccer at the competition being an Under-23 tournament. With an actual depth of promising talent, this tournament will not only showcase the future, but give younger players an opportunity to prove themselves and potentially create a pathway towards senior team minutes ahead of the World Cup. 



Five Names 

-Folarin Balogun, Striker, Stade de Reims (loan from Arsenal)-  

Goal scoring was the Achilles heel of the United States in Qatar. Balogun, a 21-year-old striker with English giants Arsenal, is on loan with Stade de Reims of Ligue 1 in France, where he’s been sensational. He has 10 goals and two assists in 16 games. The only people who’ve added to the scoresheet more than him: Kylian Mbappe and Neymar of PSG. Balogun is eligible to play both for the United States and England, but if he declares for the U.S., he may be the missing piece for 2026.  

-Gabriel Slonina, Goalkeeper, Chelsea- 

The 18-year-old goalkeeper has had a meteoric rise since making his debut with the Chicago Fire  FC in the 2021 MLS season. Slonina has been to national team camps and recently completed a move to Premier League heavyweights Chelsea. Slonina is one of the top goalkeeper prospects the sport has and although Matt Turner was great in the World Cup, he’s expected to have a challenger on his hands in the coming years. 


-Jackson Hopkins, Forward, DC United- 

The 18-year-old D.C. United midfielder has drawn rave reviews from club team manager and English soccer legend Wayne Rooney. A versatile piece as a forward and attacking midfielder, Hopkins seems to be only scraping the surface, having been given a late spot to the Americans under-20 squad as they qualified for the Olympics. He’s a name to watch for the Olympic cycle and should be a more integral part of D.C.’s success this season. 


-Justin Che, Defender, Hoffenheim (loan from FC Dallas)- 

The latest product of the FC Dallas pipeline, the 19-year-old defender got an extended look when breaking into the first-team squad in the 2021 season. A talented defender with some impressive moments offensively, assisting three goals in 15 appearances with FC Dallas in 2021. Che is on loan at German Bundesliga club Hoffenheim, who has a purchase option at the end of the season.

 

-Taylor Booth, Midfielder, Utrecht FC- 

The 21-year-old signed for Eredivisie (Netherlands top-league) club Utrecht FC in the Summer from Bayern Munich. In nine appearances, he’s impressed, winning the league’s player of the month in November. 

 

An Extra Note

On Thursday, Brazilian soccer legend Pele passed away at the age of 82, putting an entire sport and beyond into a place of mourning. When looking at American soccer, Pele may be one of its greatest ambassadors. The three-time World Cup winner set the trend of global superstars coming to America at the end of when he signed with the New York Cosmos before the 1975 season. His unveiling was one of the most historic American soccer moments of the 21st century. Since Pele, a number of the game’s greats from Franz Beckenbauer to David Beckham and Thierry Henry have taken the American stage. Pele’s arrival brought the sport to American audiences and was the catalyst for its growth. The 1994 World Cup, the MLS, none of the great moments in modern soccer in the United States happens if Pele doesn’t unveil himself to an entire nation. A figure whose name invokes royalty status, Pele will be remembered globally for his performances on and off the field for generations. For the United States, he gifted the country its first star, setting off a chain reaction that will be everlasting. 

Follow Shaun Chornobroff on Twitter for all his TWSN content surrounding The NFL, soccer and college sports.

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