Picking a Next Generation USA Lineup for World Cup 2022
While it’s certainly a bit of a fool’s errand to try and predict a national team’s lineup almost ten years into the future, it also happens to be terribly fun to debate which American youngsters might develop into the next stars of the United States men’s national team.
The U.S.’ 2007 U-20 World Cup team is a great example of both the incredible highs and the incredible lows that can be achieved by players who show potential at such a young age.
From that 2007 team, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore have gone on to great things in Europe, while promising youngsters who stood out at that same tournament like Chris Seitz, Danny Szetela, Freddy Adu and Sal Zizzo never lived up to the hype. Others, like Robbie Rogers, Tony Beltran and Dax McCarty have found a middle ground as serviceable Major League Soccer players.
So, keeping the 2007 group in mind, here is a potential lineup for the U.S. at the 2022 World Cup—arranged in a 4-3-3.
Goalkeeper: Bill Hamid
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Despite the fact that Bill Hamid has already received a number of call-ups for the full national team, he is still only 22 years old and will be 31 years old—prime goalkeeping age—come 2022. Hamid has an impressive frame at 6’3” and 225 lbs. and is a fine shot stopper. If he can eliminate the decision-making mistakes that have hampered him on a number of occasions with D.C. United, he is a prime candidate to be the USMNT goalkeeper of the future.
Other candidates could potentially include Sean Johnson of the Chicago Fire and current U.S. U-20 and Southampton Academy product Cody Cropper.
Right-Back: DeAndre Yedlin
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At 19 years old, DeAndre Yedlin is already off to a fantastic start to his professional career—starting 11 out of 12 league games for the Seattle Sounders in 2013. By 2022, Yedlin will be 28 and hopefully in the prime of his career.
This week, Yedlin was named by U.S. U-20 head coach Tab Ramos to the squad that will represent the U.S. at the U-20 World Cup this summer in Turkey.
Andrew Farrell could also be in the mix come 2022. The 21-year-old has started 12 of 13 games this season for the New England Revolution.
Center-Back: John Anthony Brooks
John Anthony Brooks is a German-American dual-national, but if the U.S. can convince him to play for the Red, White and Blue, it will be quite a coup.
Brooks helped lead Hertha Berlin to the Bundesliga 2 championship this past year and promotion into the Bundesliga. He is an impressive figure standing 6’5” tall and has participated in some U.S. youth national team camps.
At 20 years old, Brooks will be the perfect age for a center-back, 29, when the 2022 World Cup rolls around—full of experience, but not yet having lost his physical gifts.
Center-Back: Matt Hedges
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Matt Hedges will be nearing the end of his career come 2022 and will be 32 years old by then. But at his current age of 23, Hedges is already a seasoned professional—starting 36 league matches in the last year and a half for FC Dallas.
Hedges could conceivably face competition for the spot from current teammate Walker Zimmerman. The 20-year-old FC Dallas center-back recently turned pro after his sophomore season at Clint Dempsey’s alma mater, Furman University.
Left-Back: Will Packwood
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Although Will Packwood normally plays on the right side of defense, it is not inconceivable, considering the USMNT’s history, that there will be a shortage of left-footed defenders come 2022.
The 20-year-old Packwood was just beginning to break into Birmingham City’s starting lineup this year in the English Championship before a horrifying injury ended his season. If he can recover to full form, Packwood should be on track to play in the English Premier League one day and would surely be one of the USMNT's best defensive options.
Another competitor for the spot at left-back could be Greg Garza of Club Tijuana. Garza would be 30 years old by the 2022 World Cup. He broke into Tijuana’s first-team lineup this season, earning ten league appearances.
Center Midfielder: Benji Joya
Benji Joya started every game for the Americans as they made their run to the championship game of the CONCACAF U-20 championship this winter; helping the U.S. qualify for the U-20 World Cup in the process.
As a midfielder for Santos Laguna, Joya also earned four appearances for Santos’ senior team in the Liga MX. Joya has the kind of attacking flair that the senior team has lacked for years.
Center Midfielder: Luis Gil
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As an 18-year-old last season, Luis Gil earned 19 starts for a Real Salt Lake squad that finished second in the Western Conference. Already in 2013, Gil has started 13 of RSL’s first 15 games.
Gil was a key part of the U-20 World Cup qualification in Mexico just a few months ago and figures to be an important piece of the puzzle as the U-20 team heads to Turkey to compete in the U-20 World Cup later this month.
Center Midfielder: Jose Villarreal
Jose Villarreal scored three of the 10 goals in the CONCACAF U-20 tournament this past winter and already has 10 appearances for the Los Angeles Galaxy this season.
Trying to get all potential midfielders into the lineup for a tournament in 2022 is near impossible. In addition to Benji Joya, Luis Gil and Jose Villarreal, the U.S. may have available a host of other promising youngsters. Come 2022, Molde FK winger Josh Gatt will be 30, Club Tijuana attacking midfielder Joe Corona will be 31, Rosenborg BK center-midfielder Mix Diskerud will be 31 and St. Pauli winger Joe Gyau will be 29.
Additionally, Liverpool FC youngster Marc Pelosi will be 27, U-20 starter and Columbus Crew midfielder Wil Trapp will be 29, New England Revolution attacking midfielder Kelyn Rowe will be 30, La Masia product Ben Lederman will be 22, and Sporting Kansas City midfielder Mikey Lopez will be 29.
All in all, the U.S. has many, many potential stars to run its midfield over the next decade.
Forward: Mario Rodriguez
A former LA Galaxy academy player, Mario Rodriguez now plies his trade in Germany with Kaiserslautern’s youth squad.
Rodriguez is a dangerous forward with pace and a cannon of a shot and represented the U.S. at the U-17 World Cup in 2011.
Forward: Jack McInerney
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Current 2013 MLS scoring leader Jack McInerney will be 29 years old come 2022—still young enough to be a very dangerous striker. Already excelling in MLS, it is not implausible that over the next decade McInerney will make the move to Europe and become a top-quality goal scorer—and important player for the USMNT.
Forward: Juan Agudelo
Because he already has a nice highlight reel of goals for club and country, it is easy to forget that Juan Agudelo is only 20 years old. He’s had some up-and-down moments at the club level—moving from the New York Red Bulls to Chivas USA and now to the New England Revolution—but as soon as Agudelo learns to consistently harness his rare combination of power, pace and skill, he will become an elite striker for the U.S.
Some of the other notable promising youngsters who could battle for spots in the forward pool come 2022 include: Liverpool youth product Villyan Bijev (who may end up representing Bulgaria internationally); Terrence Boyd, who will be 31 years old by 2022; 1860 Munich’s Bobby Wood; Santos Laguna’s Daniel Cuevas; and Monterrey’s Alonso Hernandez.
And don’t forget—Jozy Altidore could still be in the mix come 2022 at the age of 32.
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