As the USMNT prepares for the upcoming World Cup in Qatar, a handful of US players, who ply their trade in the English Premier League, could hold the key to success.
The growing presence of US soccer players in the English top flight could be the impetus for the national team to take the World Cup by storm and advance to the knockout stage. Not least due to the fact that the experience of these USMNT players in the Premier League and their familiarity with future World Cup opponents could pay dividends in the group games against England and Wales.
An immediate impact on the Premier League
Attacking midfielder Brenden Aaronson has got off to a great start at Leeds United since joining the club from Red Bull Salzburg in the summer in a $30.2 million deal. The 21-year-old, who has been dubbed the Medford Messi, has already made an impact for the USMNT, scoring six goals in 22 internationals. His Leeds United teammate Tyler Adams is another US international playing in the top flight of English football since his transfer from RB Leipzig in the close season.
Jesse Marsch, the US trainer of the Yorkshire club, has given both players the opportunity to prove themselves on a bigger stage and is well aware of the capabilities of his compatriots from their time at the Red Bull soccer franchises.
Vital experience of the English game
But it is not just established internationals making a splash in the English Premier League. US left-back Antonee Robinson has spent his entire career so far in England and now plays in the English top flight after gaining promotion with London club Fulham. His Fulham teammate Tim Ream, the 34-year-old center-back, has played in England for over a decade and could be a contender to make the trip to Qatar if he performs well in the Premier League this season. With US head coach Gregg Berhalter having a large player pool to choose from, competition will be intense as demonstrated by the three debutants in the World Cup warm-up game against Morocco.
Taking a World Cup gamble
However, the risks involved in moving to a high-profile league such as the English Premier League are highlighted by the experience of USMNT goalkeeper Matt Turner, who joined Arsenal from New England in July. He finds himself behind regular keeper Aaron Ramsdale, who is battling for a place in the England squad, and while Turner’s place in the USMNT squad is all but guaranteed, a lack of game time could hamper his chances of securing a place in the starting line-up in the first group game against Wales.
For players such as Crystal Palace center-back Chris Richards, a transfer to the Premier League represents an opportunity rather than a gamble. Richards struggled to achieve game time at Bundesliga club Bayern Munich due to the depth and quality of the squad and was signed for Hoffenheim on loan. Now, his presence in the Premier League could secure his ticket to Qatar.
It is not only tough for players to force their way into established line-ups in the Premier League, players must maintain performances at the highest level to keep their place in the team. The failure of Richards to assert himself at Bayern Munich underlines the tough competition players face at top clubs with even a hint of a drop in form enough to see players banished to the bench, irrespective of their reputation. The most prominent example of this is Cristiano Ronaldo, who recently suffered the indignity of being dropped by Manchester United.
Berhalter will be concerned that this phenomenon could affect USMNT captain Christian Pulisic, who will be a crucial part of the head coach’s World Cup plans. Pulisic will need to be playing regularly to be able to lead his team to glory in Qatar. However, the 23-year-old has found himself out of favor at Premier League club Chelsea, was benched for the first three games of the season, including a 3-0 defeat to Leeds United, and featured for just 56 game minutes.
The experience and knowledge of the English game will be invaluable to the USMNT when they face England and Wales. The US players in the Premier League will have the opportunity to test themselves against England stars such as Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, and Bukayo Saka. In the World Cup soccer betting, the USMNT are currently priced at odds of +650 to win Group B and +110 to qualify from Group B.
The US players in the English Premier League could provide the USMNT with a vital advantage at the World Cup in Qatar. The familiarity with the English game gained by players such as the Leeds United pair Brenden Aaronson and Tyler Adams will stand the US boys in good stead when the nation takes on England and Wales, however, Berhalter will be anxious to see Christian Pulisic getting regular games with Chelsea as the attacking midfielder could provide the key to success for the USMNT in Qatar.