On the MLS Extratime podcast this week, United States Men’s National Team head coach Gregg Berhalter confirmed his intent to rotate the player pool for the Gold Cup & Nations League to keep his top tier fresh for World Cup qualifying.
Even the best keeper lets a goal by them, and we missed this interview when it posted earlier in the week. But, we wanted to talk it out for a minute because the message is an important one with big implications going forward.
In the interview, Berhalter specifically identified Christian Pulisic as someone who will not be playing both the Nations League and the Gold Cup, “These guys need a break, so I can imagine them playing one of those tournaments and then getting rest.”
There’s a ton that goes unaddressed in the interview, and it was a quick comment at the end of an almost 20 minute interview.
There’s no objection here about the benefits of giving the USMNT’s best a reprieve from these tournaments. But I’m most curious of who this benefits. First let’s map the upcoming competitions:
- March: Olympic qualifying (U-23s)
- March: Friendlies
- June: Nations League + unannounced friendly
- July - August: Gold Cup
- September, October, November: World Cup qualifying
We know there will be an MLS season with a goal of starting in April. We believe European leagues will aim for an August restart. Berhalter has said several times they want to add a friendly either before or after the Nations League in June to simulate the fall’s World Cup qualifying schedule.
This means there could be several beneficiaries who are given a chance to build their foundation to be in the 2022 player pool. We’re going to hang onto every word from Berhalter over the coming months to try and parse who those players are.
Domestic players? Gyasi Zardes, Ayo Akinola. Recent international loans? Paul Arriola, Daryl Dike. Internationals who aren’t firmly established yet? Brenden Aaronson, Tim Weah.
Ok, I’m pretty much just ready to list everyone.
Berhalter named Christian Pulisic. If we had to speculate about established players who he’d identify for rest from European club seasons, I’d set the list at: Pulisic, Gio Reyna, Josh Sargent, Weston McKennie (the Monopoly champ), Tyler Adams, Sergiño Dest, John Brooks, Antonee Robinson, DeAndre Yedlin (use not positional security), and Mark McKenzie.
Who would you add or subtract from that list?