U.S. soccer fans should be excited as they look toward 2026


Graphic by William Quansah

Weston McKennie, Christian Pulisic, and Tyler Adams are among the NT’s rising stars.

by William Quansah and Warren Stewart

The last couple of years have been tough for supporters of the U.S. Men’s national team(USMNT). Having been without a coach for almost a year, a lack of consistency in performances, and not being able to qualify for the World Cup in Russia Summer 2018, there’s been a decline in interest by the American public, and fans have become discouraged. Despite these setbacks, the future is promising for the national team. Here’s why:

Gregg Berhalter: A man with a vision

After the firing of Jurgen Klinsmann (2016) and resignation of Bruce Arena (2017) due to the failure to qualify for the World Cup in Russia, the USMNT has been without a coach for 11 months with, at the time, assistant coach, Dave Sarachan, filling in the role of the USMNT coach. This left many fans frustrated wanting stability in not just the manager role, but the the style of play.

In December 2018, Gregg Berhalter was announced as the permanent coach for the NT after a year-long wait. Berhalter previously coached the Columbus Crew in the MLS, and fans should be excited simply because he has a clear vision. In his introductory press conference Berhalter showed everyone he has a plan.

“The idea is that we’re an attacking-based team that wants to create goal-scoring opportunities by disorganizing the opponent,”

He would elaborate speaking about his time in Columbus Crew and how he would apply that play to the NT. “We’ve done it through buildup where we start the ball with the goalie in the back, and when teams try to press us, we play through them to create goal-scoring opportunities. We’re making the field big,” Berhalter added. “Another way to do that is to use pressure, whether we start in a mid block or move into high pressure to force turnovers, win the ball and immediate create goal-scoring opportunities.”

Berhalter also noted the need for direction which he plans to bring. Seeing his success of implementing this playing style in Columbus, and knowing he has a plan should be encouraging for all fans.

Players abroad: Raising the bar

Throughout the past four years there has been a surge exciting U.S. talent playing abroad, especially in Europe. Much of this has been due to the growing quality of the MLS and their ability to attract top cubs and the decisions of many young players to make the move as teenagers into European academies.

In the NT’s last international break in this past November 2018, 15 of the 24-man roster play club soccer in Europe. Many of the these players are experiencing first team football.

Summer 2018’s one highlight for the NT was its 1-1 draw against World Cup Champions France before the World Cup. The squad featured 19 players playing abroad in Europe; 10 of those players were in the starting lineup, including keeper Zack Steffen who has sealed a move from Columbus Crew to Premier League Champions Manchester City.

Christian Pulisic: The future

The 20-year old star from Hershey, PA has been on the radar of the world for nearly four years now.

Pulisic’s pace, ability to dribble, and high soccer IQ has made him one of the most sought after players in the world. Every year he accomplishes more. In November 2018 he became the youngest player to captain the USMNT, followed by being Kopa Trophy runner-up to Kylian Mbappe in December. He’s now the face of the NT and has the talent to go down as the best ever to play for the U.S.

Currently at Borussia Dortmund, Pulisic has struggled for consistent playing time competing against the likes young Englishman Jadon Sancho and Danish Brun Larsen. Dortmund are currently pushing for the Bundesliga title, but there’s not been as much joy for the winger.

In January 2, 2019, Chelsea FC sealed a move for Pulisic to come to London at the start of next season, paying Dortmund $73 million, making him the most expensive American player ever. This move will be great for Pulisic and Americans as he will be able to play without worry with freedom over the next 5 months as he’ll just be on loan at Dortmund. The interest of soccer for Americans will also rise as Chelsea is one the biggest clubs in the world. Playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world and in the hardest league will help Pulisic develop. If his time at Stamford Bridge doesn’t work out, he’ll still have time to become a world great similar to the way Kevin De Bruyne and Mohamed Salah have done.

2026 World Cup: What the U.S. needs

The 2026 FIFA World Cup will be held in Canada, Mexico, and the United States in the Summer 2026 as the three countries came together with a joint-bid to secure soccer’s most important competition. The impact of this is self-explanatory as hype around soccer will exponentially grow as 2026 comes closer. Being a host, U.S. will have automatically qualified and there will be great effort to make sure the NT came can make a deep run.