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Who We’ll Be Watching in The World Cup: The United States

Italy may be staying home, but Italian-Americans have their home team to get behind.

USA v Wales: Group B - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Ulrik Pedersen/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

With Italy not qualifying for the World Cup again, the tournament certainly loses a lot of its luster for Azzurri supporters like myself. But when both the Azzurri and the United States don’t qualify (like four years ago in Russia), it leaves Italian-Americans like me without any ties to a team. Sure, I enjoy rooting for Argentina (as my third team) and even the Dutch (but they weren’t there either), but it’s not the same as cheering on your ancestral homeland or your home nation.

So, this time around, even with the Italians staying home, I still have the United States to get behind. The US has the youngest roster in the tournament, one that should peak in 2026 when the World Cup returns to North America. This Golden Generation, a group of young and exciting talents, makes the USMNT even more compelling to support.

So, while they may not be an obvious choice for non-Americans to support, here's why you should consider getting behind the Stars and Stripes.

Why the United States

USA v Wales: Group B - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Fu Tian/China News Service via Getty Images

The United States hasn’t been an underdog in much of anything on the world stage since the end of World War II. As a global superpower, the US has often flexed its muscle (for better or worse) in foreign affairs, economics, and athletics, but soccer has always been different. With soccer struggling for attention against traditional American sports like baseball, basketball, and NFL football, it's no wonder the US never established itself as a world power in the global game.

Thanks to the 1994 World Cup and the subsequent establishment of MLS, soccer in the States has grown by leaps and bounds, with more and more kids playing soccer. But even with grassroots improvements like the MLS and its youth academies, the USMNT is still often an underdog.

So, if you’re looking for a young, scrappy underdog to root for against England and potentially other big powers, then the US could be your team.

Key Players

USA v Wales: Group B - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images

Christian Pulisic

This is the obvious one. Pulisic is one of the most hyped American players of all time (remember, it’s a short history) and made his debut for German power Borussia Dortmund in January 2016 at only 17. Three years later, he made a move to Chelsea that saw him fetch the biggest transfer fee for an American player.

Pulisic had had an up-and-down Chelsea tenure, with his best Premiership output coming in 2019-2020, when he scored nine goals and recorded four assists in 19 starts (25 apps). But he’s a Champions League winner, and his importance to the Stars and Stripes can’t be understated. He’s tallied 19 goals and 10 assists in 47 international appearances and is the straw that stirs the US attack. Plus, with his chances limited at Chelsea this season, Pulisic should be playing with even more of a chip on his shoulder than usual.

Tyler Adams

My favorite player on the team, Adams, will be wearing the captain’s armband ahead of Pulisic this tournament. Adams is a versatile midfielder who will mostly play the holding role this tournament. Unlike Pulisic, Adams is a product of the MLS academy system, coming up with the New York Red Bulls before moving to Europe with sister club RB Leipzig.

Still just 23 years old, Adams is a regular Premier League starter with Leeds United after a summer move. He’ll be vital for the US in winning back possession and slowing down opposing attacks. His eight tackles plus interceptions led the side against Wales, and they’ll need more of the same against England and Iran.

Tim Ream

Ream is far from a star, but he’s the veteran member of the side. On paper, the US defense is probably at its weakest position, and Ream will have to use his wealth of experience to keep it sound. After coming through NYRB like Adams, Ream was sold to Chelsea but never appeared for the Blues.

After a spell with Bolton Wanderers, Ream has been with Fulham since 2015. He’s made 245 at Craven Cottage since then with a side that’s spent time in both the Championship and Premiership. He’ll need all that experience to keep strikers like Harry Kane at bay, especially playing alongside Walker Zimmerman, who plies his trade in MLS.

Josh Sargent

Sargent is another example of a US youngster who bypassed MLS and got his start in Germany. After playing for Werder Bremen and Norwich City, Sargent should be familiar to Bundesliga and Premiership fans. He hasn’t had the same level of success as players like Pulisic, Gio Reyna, and others early in his career, but with nine goals in 19 appearances for Norwich, he's found his goalscoring boots this season.

Despite their recent success at the Gold Cup and Nations League, this Golden Generation has played with a revolving cast of strikers. One thing is for sure, though, whether it’s Sargent or someone else, the US will need goals from a #9 if it’s going to make a deep run.

Remaining Matches

  • England vs. USA: November 25th, 2 PM EST
  • USA vs. Iran: November 29th, 2 PM EST