Top 50 Americans in the 2022 World Cup player pool
If the 2022 World Cup seems a million years away, it's because it's going to feel that way as U.S. national team fans are forced to endure the years of waiting to see their team return to the sport's biggest stage.
That World Cup is slated to take place in December 2022, making it almost a full five years from now before we can hope to see American players taking on the world's best in an event U.S. fans grew to take for granted after qualifying for seven straight tournaments.
Americans are living in a new reality, though, one where the nightmare of October's World Cup qualifying debacle in Trinidad & Tobago left them with no choice but to forge ahead and think about the future and the young players who will look to lift the program from the ashes.
The good news is that there is a considerable amount of young talent on the way up the pipeline, in MLS and abroad — arguably more young talent than we have ever seen at one time. Christian Pulisic's meteoric rise in Germany has inspired dozens of fellow Americans to make the jump overseas in search of glory, while more and more teenagers are signing deals in MLS.
With that in mind, here is a closer look at the talent pool that will be drawn from to build the next U.S. World Cup — assuming the Americans successfully qualify. We will exclude all players who will be in their 30s when the 2022 World Cup kicks off, which leaves out the likes of Jozy Altidore, Bobby Wood and Michael Bradley. Obviously there should be a few players in their 30s on the 2022 U.S. World Cup squad, but the team's success will hinge on the nucleus of players in their prime years.
1 Christian Pulisic, Borussia Dortmund
As brutal as it is that Pulisic will miss out on the 2018 World Cup, it's exciting to think what he could do in 2022, when he will 24 and should be at the peak of his powers. The next cycle should see him continue to improve, and his next club move should be one of the biggest storylines of the coming years.
2 John Brooks, Wolfsburg
The oldest player on the list, Brooks will be 29 when the 2022 World Cup kicks off, and if he can cut down on his penchant for injuries, there's no telling how good a defender he could be. His $22.5 million transfer to Wolfsburg — the largest fee ever paid for an American player — could be the precursor to an even bigger move in the coming years. He showed in the friendly against Portugal in November that he's ready to take on a leadership role with the U.S.
3 Weston McKennie, Schalke
The 19-year-old central midfielder enjoyed a breakout 2017, though it came too late for him to play a part in World Cup qualifying. If he can continue to earn regular minutes for Schalke, a starting role with the U.S. seems a good bet in 2018.
4 Tyler Adams, New York Red Bulls
The most highly regarded U.S. prospect in MLS, Adams heads into 2018 primed for a breakout year after turning in an impressive 2017. Though he was used mainly as a right wing back by the Red Bulls this past season, his future is in central midfield, where his tenacity, ability to combine and underrated attacking qualities make him a player European clubs are already fawning over at the age of 18.
5 Jonathan Gonzalez, Monterrey
No American had a better debut pro season than Gonzalez, who earned Liga MX Best XI honors and helped Monterrey reach the Apertura final and win the Copa MX. The 18-year-old Northern California native is already drawing attention from European clubs and is generating interest from the Mexican national team despite having stated in the past his desire to represent the U.S.
6 Matt Miazga, Vitesse (via Chelsea)
After earning his first national team start in an impressive showing in last summer's Gold Cup, Miazga should be on the front line of the U.S. team's youth movement in central defense. He's enjoying a second successful season in the Dutch first division, gaining invaluable experience at the age of 22. The former Red Bulls defender has improved the technical aspect of his game, while also getting stronger.
7 Cameron Carter-Vickers, Sheffield United (via Tottenham)
Another player benefiting from a successful loan move, Carter-Vickers is doing well with Championship side Sheffield United, and could be recalled by Tottenham this winter. Having turned 20 on New Year's Eve, Carter-Vickers has plenty of room to develop, but is already playing well enough to be considered a threat to start in the next World Cup qualifying cycle.
8 Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen
Though he has yet to formally sign his first pro contract, Sargent skyrocketed into the U.S. national team radar by shining at the U-20 World Cup, then impressing at the U-17 World Cup as well. He still has plenty to prove, but if he can hit the ground running in Germany like Christian Pulisic did, he could be the next American teenager on the fast track to Bundesliga success.
9 Kellyn Acosta, FC Dallas
Overshadowed by the many younger midfielders suddenly emerging as long-term prospects, Acosta actually began 2017 in red-hot form, looking like the future in the U.S. central midfield.
Acosta will be 27 when the 2022 World Cup roles around and if he can build on his breakout year as a national team contributor by making the jump to Europe, he could succeed in fending off the U.S. challenge from the likes of Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie.
10 Timothy Weah, Paris Saint-Germain
Known more for being George Weah's son before his breakout performance at the U-17 World Cup, Timothy Weah showed considerable growth as a prospect in 2017. First-team minutes at a club like PSG will be tough to come by, but if he can secure the right loan move to start earning playing time, he could be a viable forward option at the age of 22 when the 2022 World Cup kicks off.
11 Nick Taitague, Schalke
Overshadowed by Weston McKennie's breakthrough, Taitague is widely regarded in American soccer circles as one of the most technically skilled prospect to ever emerge from the U.S. An attacking midfielder by trade, Taitague still has to make his breakthrough as a pro, but the 18-year-old is considered someone destined to be a senior national team contributor.
12 Jonathan Klinsmann, Hertha Berlin
There is a good crop of young goalkeeping prospects in the U.S. pipeline, but Klinsmann's rapid rise from U.S. Under-20 standout to Bundesliga goalkeeper has the 20-year-old looking like he could develop into the best of the bunch.
13 Paul Arriola, D.C. United
The former Club Tijuana midfielder enjoyed a breakout year with the national team, emerging as one of the best wide options in the pool. The move to D.C. United might have been seen by some as a setback, but steady playing time on an improving team heading into a new stadium isn't the worst place for him to showcase himself ahead of a potential move to Europe. It's easy to forget that he's only 22, meaning he'll be in his prime at 27 when the 2022 World Cup comes along.
14 Zack Steffen, Columbus Crew
The former U.S. Under-20 World Cup standout enjoyed his breakout pro season in 2017, helping the Crew make a push to the brink of a place in the MLS Cup final, with Steffen's playoff heroics taking center stage. A dynamic shot-stopper who should earn a January national team camp call, Steffen is poised to make a real charge for the starting U.S. goalkeeper spot in 2018.
15 Ethan Horvath, Club Brugge
It was an up-and-down 2017 for Horvath, who began the year as the brightest goalkeeping prospect in the U.S. sytem, and ended it with an error-prone turn as a starter against Portugal. He's still young and talented, and once he can get back to his best form, he will continue to challenge for the starting U.S. job.
16 Keaton Parks, Benfica
The 6-foot-4 Texas-born midfielder has been a revelation at Portuguese giant Benfica, and while he's still just taking the first modest steps into top-level playing time, it can't be overstated how impressive his run to this point has been. The 20-year-old is a highly skilled distributor who is far better on the ball than you're used to seeing a player his size be, making him an intriguing prospect in an already-stacked U.S. midfield pool.
17 Erik Palmer-Brown, Sporting Kansas City
Reportedly set to join Manchester City on a free transfer this winter, Palmer-Brown showed at the Under-20 World Cup why he has long been considered such a promising prospect by top European clubs. He never quite broke through at Sporting Kansas City as a regular starter, but if he can secure the right loan move to continue his development overseas, Palmer-Brown could push the likes of Matt Miazga and Cameron Carter-Vickers for national team minutes in the years to come.
18 Emerson Hyndman, Bournemouth
The former Fulham midfielder has endured a frustrating stint at English Premier League side Bournemouth, where minutes have been impossible to come by, and only a successful loan stint at Scottish club Rangers in the first half of 2017 has provided any respite. He has fallen off the U.S. radar, but at 21, he is still far too young to write off considering his impressive skill set as a savvy central midfielder. He badly needs a move this winter, be it via loan or full transfer, to resurrect a stalling career that still has time to blossom.
19 Giovanni Reyna, New York City FC academy
The youngest player on the list, Reyna is the son of former U.S. national team captain Claudio Reyna. Only 15, Reyna is already drawing considerable interest from European scouts with his high-level technical skills and ability to create chances and score goals. The New York City FC academy product is reportedly considering a move overseas, and while it may be seen as a stretch to project him on the 2022 U.S. World Cup — when he would be 20 — if anyone in his age group is going to make that jump, he's the most likely to make it happen.
20 Chris Durkin, D.C. United
Arguably the most impressive player on the U.S. team at the Under-17 World Cup. Durkin played extremely well despite spending the majority of the tournament playing out of position in central defense. A defensive midfielder by trade, Durkin has yet to break through at D.C. United, but that hasn't stopped some top European clubs from expressing interest in him. Don't be surprised to see him make an early move to join the growing contingent of Americans going overseas.
21 DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle United
One of two holdovers from the 2014 World Cup who are on this list, Yedlin will be 29 when the 2022 World Cup roles around, and it will be interesting to see how he evolves as a fullback during that time. He relies a lot on his blazing speed, but has continued to improve his defensive instincts as a starter in the Premier League. There are some promising right back prospects who could challenge him at some point in the next cycle, but Yedlin should be locked in as the U.S. starter for years to come.
22 Cristian Roldan, Seattle Sounders
Roldan took a major step forward in 2017, going from impressive starter to Best XI caliber midfielder on a Seattle side that came close to a second straight MLS Cup title. Still just 22, Roldan has much room to grow, and while some younger midfielders are garnering attention as the future of the U.S. midfield, Roldan improving at a rate that should give him a very good chance of becoming a regular national team contributor in the next World Cup cycle.
23 Jesse Gonzalez, FC Dallas
It was a forgettable year for FC Dallas, but Gonzalez definitely should not be forgotten as a worthy contender to the starting U.S. national team goalkeeper job in the coming years. He may boast the most natural talent of the many candidates lining up to replace the likes of Tim Howard and Brad Guzan, but will need a good 2018 to regain some of the ground he lost in 2017 to the likes of Jonathan Klinsmann and Zack Steffen.
24 Jordan Morris, Seattle Sounders
2017 was a bit of a mixed bag for Morris, who endured some bad stretches and injuries, but also delivered some special moments, like his game-winning goal in the Gold Cup final. You can certainly argue that he belongs higher on this list, but the big question is how much better will he get in the next four years? At 23, he should have more to improve on, and it will be up to him to show that his upside isn't as limited as some seem to think.
25 Shaq Moore, Levante
It might seem strange to have a La Liga player ranked this low, but Moore only recently broke through at Levante, and we'll need to see more games to get a real sense of what he brings to the table as a long-term national team prospect. The former U.S. youth national team regular did enough to play his way into some league starts for Levante, but he'll need to improve to become a regular starter and challenge for a USMNT placae.
26 Justen Glad, Real Salt Lake
Of all the talented youngsters at RSL, Glad showed the most growth as a player in 2017, solidifying a regular starter role after recovering from an injury suffered while with the U.S. Under-20s. A poised and highly-skilled central defender who is also showing signs of being a leader, Glad is just 20 and has closed ground on the other top young defenders in the pool. The 2018 season will tell the tale of whether Glad can make the jump into the elite level of center back options for the U.S.
27 Kekuta Manneh, Pachuca
The former Columbus Crew midfielder celebrated his December 30 birthday by signing via free transfer with Liga MX side Pachuca, joining fellow MLS alumnus Omar Gonzalez. Manneh combines speed and skill and while his 2017 was a bit of a roller coaster with his one-year stint in Columbus, Manneh could propel himself into the U.S. national team conversation. He'll be 27 when the 2022 World Cup kicks off.
28 Lynden Gooch, Sunderland
The speedy and tenacious winger has had his share of difficulty finding consistent minutes for Sunderland, but in recent weeks he has found more time and is making the most of it. The 22-year-old still has plenty of time to develop and has shown good promise in his handful of U.S. national team looks. He should be a factor as a winger in the next World Cup qualifying cycle.
29 Rubio Rubin, Stabaek
The former U.S. Under-20 World Cup standout endured a rough 2017, with moves to Silkeborg and Stabaek failing to produce the kind of playing time he needs to meet the expectations he created as a youth national team standout. A move to MLS is possible in 2018, but wherever he goes, the 21-year-old midfielder-forward needs to find consistent minutes in order to put himself back into the U.S. national team conversation.
30 Haji Wright, Sandhausen (via Schalke)
A striker who would have been much higher on this list a year ago, Wright has seen minutes tough to come by on loan with 2. Bundesliga side Sandhausen, but the 19-year-old remains a top forward prospect in the U.S. pool. That will change if he can't find regular minutes in 2018, be it in Germany or elsewehere.
31 Luca de la Torre, Fulham
The Fulham academy product has begun to break through with the Cottagers first team in 2017, but it was his work at the Under-20 World Cup with the U.S. that reminded us why he has been such a highly regarded prospect for so long. Still just 19, De La Torre has much room to grow, and is probably still a few years away from being a viable U.S. national team option, but he's someone who could develop into a force by 2022.
32 Brooks Lennon, Real Salt Lake
The former Liverpool youth team standout posted a breakout 2017 season, starring for the U.S. Under-20 national team at the World Cup and playing well for Real Salt Lake on loan. Now that he has made his move to RSL a permanent one, the 20-year-old will look to establish himself as a regular starter and wide midfield option for the U.S. in the coming years.
33 Gianluca Busio, Sporting Kansas City
The North Carolina native became the youngest MLS signing since Freddy Adu when he signed with Sporting KC as a homegrown player. The 15-year-old forward is likely a few years from being a first-team contributor, but he has shown his considerable talent on the U.S. U-15 and U-17 national teams and is Gio Reyna's biggest rival for the title of best prospect in their age group.
34 Matthew Olosunde, Manchester United
A tall and athletic right back who should feature prominently in the next U.S. U-20 cycle, Olosunde has drawn praise from Manchester United youth coaches for his continued evolution, though first team action is still way off. The 19-year-old will likely need a loan move to kick off his pro career, but it's a promising sign that Jose Mourinho recently called him up to train with the first team.
35 Duane Holmes, Scunthorpe United
The former Huddersfield Town midfielder has found a home at Scunthorpe United, where he has earned regular playing time and has emerged as a real goal-scoring threat. The England-raised winger is 23, and blossoming as a first-team player with the Championship side, and should give future U.S. coaches a viable wing option at a position that is currently thin in flank options.
36 Will Trapp, Columbus Crew
The oldest player on the list, Trapp will be close to 30 when the 2022 World Cup kicks off, and as tough as the competition is in central midfield in the U.S. player pool, Trapp brings some qualities that make him a unique prospect and someone who provides something different as a smooth deep-lying distributor.
37 Danilo Acosta, Real Salt Lake
If you are looking for good left back prospects in the pool, Acosta may be at the top of the list. The converted midfielder played very well at left back for the U.S. U-20s and settled into a starting role for RSL. As he learns the position, Acosta should become a contender for a role with the U.S. national team, even though he's technically still eligible for Honduras.
38 Marco Delgado, Toronto FC
The 22-year-old played a key role in Toronto FC's MLS Cup-winning season, and surely turned heads as someone who has a future with the U.S. national team. The former Chivas USA product is a versatile midfielder capable of playing centrally or on the wing.
39 Alex Bono, Toronto FC
The MLS Cup-winning goalkeeper enjoyed his first full season as a starter, showing all the poise and overall qualities that helped him beat out veteran Clint Irwin. The 23-year-old is facing plenty of competition in the U.S. goalkeeper pool from a plethora of standouts right around his age, but Bono showed in 2017 that he's going to have a say in that race in the coming years.
40 Nick Lima, San Jose Earthquakes
The first-year pro was one of the more impressive rookies in MLS in 2017, emerging as a fast and technical right back who has all the tools to be a U.S. national team prospect. San Jose's rough season led to Lima being tried at a variety of positions, but if he can be left at right back in 2018, the 23-year-old could make a real push for a national team place in the coming years.
41 Russell Canouse, D.C. United
After beginning his career in Europe, and finding success, Canouse made the decision to return home and be part of D.C. United's rebuilding efforts. The 22-year-old defensive midfielder should benefit from regular playing time in the coming years, and it shouldn't be long before the former U.S. youth national team standout starts earning first-team looks.
42 Julian Green, Greuther Furth (via Stuttgart)
It's wild to think that Green scored a goal at the 2014 World Cup at the age of 18, yet isn't widely regarded as someone who will be a factor in 2022, but we shouldn't go writing him off just yet. The 22-year-old has struggled for consistent playing time since leaving Bayern Munich in search of minutes. His loan to Greuther Furth looked disappointing at first, but he started the team's final four matches before the winter break, showing that he could be ready to break out.
43 Jonathan Amon, Nordsjaelland
A player who only recently started generation buzz after breaking through at Danish club Nordsjaelland in the past two months, Amon is a South Carolina native who could emerge as solid left wing option in the upcoming U.S. Under-20 national team cycle. Left wingers are hard to come by, and he's showing himself to be a dangerous one.
44 Walker Zimmerman, Los Angeles FC
It was a bit of a roller-coaster year in 2017 for Zimmerman, who began the year by impressing in his first U.S. national team camp, but then he endured a rough season with FC Dallas that saw the club underachieve and ultimately miss the playoffs. He was traded to LAFC this winter, which will allow him to develop under former U.S. coach Bob Bradley, who has mentored some of the best defenders to ever play for the national team. Zimmerman will be 29 when the 2022 World Cup kicks off.
45 Kenny Saief, KAA Gent
There was plenty of buzz last summer when Saief committed to play for the U.S. instead of Israel, but his national team debut was followed quickly by an injury that kept him out of the Gold Cup. The injury has also hurt his standing at Gent, but while he is still working his way back, he shouldn't be forgotten as a viable attacking midfield option in the next cycle. He turned 24 earlier this month, and has already played at a high level.
46 Antonee Robinson, Bolton (via Everton)
The England-born left back has enjoyed a breakout run on loan at Bolton, settling in as a regular starter since joining on loan from the Toffees. He played with the U.S. Under-18 national team in the past, and will be a player to watch for in the next Olympic qualiying cycle, and a left back option in a thin pool of American prospects.
47 Andrew Carleton, Atlanta United
The U.S. Under-17 national team playmaker enjoyed a breakout showing at the U-17 World Cup, but the question now is when and if he will have his chance with Atlanta United. There are still questions about whether he has the work rate to excel as he moves up the ladder, but he has a swagger you can't teach and could develop into a standout on the senior level.
48 Matt Polster, Chicago Fire
Polster's first season as a full-time right back saw him emerge as arguably the best player in MLS at the position. The converted midfielder isn't as athletic as some of the other right back prospects on this list, but he's a sharp passer and reads the game well, and if he can build on his impressive 2017 he should earn a national team look soon.
49 McKinze Gaines, Darmstadt
Though his move from Wolfsburg to Darmstadt has yet to truly bear fruit, Gaines remains an enticing prospect with breakaway speed who could still develop into a dangerous winger in the U.S. national team setup if he can find regular playing time.
50 Josh Perez, Livorno (via Fiorentina)
A bit of a forgotten prospect in American soccer circles do to his absence from the past two U.S. Under-20 national team World Cup cycles, Perez is earning minutes in Serie C, where he has set up shop on loan. He has already experienced playing in Serie A, and at 19, he has plenty of room to grow. A highly skilled wing option, he has already joined the short list of Americans to play in Italy's top flight but needs to work to get back to that level.