Happy New Year, everyone, and welcome to 2019! With a new year finally upon us, we can put 2018 in our rearview and focus on 2019. 2019 has to be a much better year for the United States Men’s National Team...because it really has nowhere to go but up, right? Let’s be positive in saying that 2019 will be a year of redemption for the USMNT.
So, we’re going to set the bar for this calendar year for our team and give out some bold predictions. Some may seem like stretches now, but we have the potential to be labeled geniuses if they come true this year. Let’s do this:
The biggest thing on the calendar in 2019 for the USMNT is the CONCACAF Gold Cup, their first competitive matches since the end of World Cup qualifying in 2017. No doubt, this is the competition that new head coach Gregg Berhalter is building towards, and they don’t want to just do well. They want to defend their title and win it all. They will do that, winning in Chicago on July 7th (just hours after the USWNT win the Women’s World Cup in Lyon), and they will do it by beating a Costa Rica squad that shocks Mexico in the semifinals. With this Gold Cup victory, the USMNT will qualify for the 2021 Confederations Cup (assuming FIFA still goes through with it), and will eliminate the need for a playoff similar to the one they played against Mexico at the Rose Bowl in 2015.
The USMNT will lose once in Nations League group play, but qualify for the Nations League finals.
CONCACAF Nations League finally gets underway in September, and the USMNT will be in League A along with the rest of the 2017 Hexagonal participants: Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago. The rest of the Nations League will be determined in March with the final matchday of qualifying. The teams in League A will be drawn into 4 groups of 3 teams each, with the winner of the group moving onto the Nations League finals and the 3rd place team being relegated to League B. The USMNT will lose a game during group play on the road. But, they will win the other 3 matches and that will be enough to send them through to the finals to compete against the other group winners for the first ever CONCACAF Nations League trophy.
Josh Sargent will lead the USMNT in goals…as a super sub.
Josh Sargent is going to be the man up front for the USMNT in 2019, and he will lead the team in goals. But, he’s not going to be starting most matches. That honor will go to Gyasi Zardes, who is familiar with Gregg Berhalter’s system and will be his go-to striker. Sargent will develop into a deadly super sub and will be the guy who leads the team in goals in 2019. The scoring will be spread out a bit more than in previous years, but with 5 goals, Sargent will lead the pack.
Jozy Altidore, but not Michael Bradley, will make the Gold Cup roster.
While 2018 was about gaining experience for the youth, 2019 will be where the veterans from before and the wave of the future combine to form our best team. And that best team will be put together for the Gold Cup. When that roster comes out, Jozy Altidore’s name will be listed. After overcoming injuries, he will have a monster 2019 season, and Berhalter will call him up for the most important tournament for the USMNT in 2019 to bring that experience up front and provide some attacking options. A name who will not be on that roster will be Michael Bradley, who will be in several camps in the early part of the year. In the end, he misses the cut amongst a loaded midfield as the younger stars who have dominated the play in 2018 will emerge as the go-to options for the new head coach.
The USMNT will beat two Top 20 opponents.
With the Gold Cup and Nations League taking up a bulk of the calendar, there won’t be a lot of time for the USMNT to play matches against big-time opponents. But, there will be a chance for a couple friendlies against some Top 20 opponents. And, this team will show something against those teams. The USMNT will beat two teams that are ranked in the Top 20 this year. This might be the boldest of the predictions, but if it’s right, that means the USMNT is in a much better place.
The U-20s will make the semifinals of the U-20 World Cup.
The U-20 World Cup takes place this year in Poland, and the United States will be there, qualifying after pummeling everyone at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship. For real, they even beat the U.S. Virgin Islands 13-0! They beat Mexico 2-0 in the final, and have the opportunity to do some big things at the World Cup. And they will, making it to the semifinals of the tournament. The future is bright, and there are some eligible players that could turn some heads at the tournament, like Alex Mendez, Chris Durkin, and Sergiño Dest. Could one of the young phenoms on the MNT join them in Poland, like Josh Sargent or Tim Weah? That remains to be seen. But, this will be a team to remember for their run in the 2019 U-20 World Cup.
Two uncapped January Camp participants will log 5 caps in 2019.
January Camp is an opportunity for MLS players to show that they have what it takes to be a part of the national team picture. Usually, there are a couple players who enter January Camp without an international cap that impress the coaches enough to stick with the USMNT going foward. In 2018, Marky Delgado and Zack Steffen were January Camp participants who did not have an international cap that logged more than 5 during the year. In 2017, Jorge Villafaña became the team’s starting left back after impressing then-coach Bruce Arena, and Sebastian Lletget could have also been a regular feature had he not gone down with a foot injury that kept him out the remainder of 2017. Who could it be in 2019? In January Camp, there are 13 uncapped players on the roster: Tyler Miller, Justen Glad, Nick Lima, Daniel Lovitz, Mark McKenzie, Keegan Rosenberry, Auston Trusty, Corey Baird, Russell Canouse, Jonathan Lewis, Djordje Mihailovic, Jeremy Ebobisse, and Christian Ramirez. At least 2 of them will be guys we see regularly this year on the national team.
There you have it, the bold predictions for 2019. What predictions do you have? Hit the comments and discuss these crazy picks and offer your own.