The United States Men’s National Soccer Team announced their roster ahead of their upcoming friendlies against Japan and Saudi Arabia. These are the final two matches before the team heads to Qatar for the World Cup in November.
FIFA recently approved 26-man squads for the 2022 World Cup, meaning each time will be allowed three additional players as opposed to the traditional 23-man squads.
Manager Gregg Berhalter told the Associated Press last week that the roster is 85% complete. With roughly four spots up for grabs, the final camp will be key for those players looking to get on the plane to Qatar.
The number nine or striker position is perhaps the most open spot in Berhalter’s starting 11. The former Columbus Crew coach has experimented with many different players in that spot through his tenure.
Jordan Pefok is the most notable omission from this camp. Pefok has scored three goals and tacked on three assists so far in the Bundesliga, this season. It will be difficult for Pefok to get back into the squad before the World Cup even if he continues his good form at Union Berlin.
Berhalter said he wants to see other players in action at the striker position.
“We’re pretty confident we know Jordan’s profile,” Berhalter said in an interview with Sporting News.
Barring any unpredictable injuries, Pefok will most likely not be included in the final squad.
The same can probably be said for another key omission: Brandon Vazquez.
Vazquez is among the frontrunners in the MLS MVP conversation, scoring 16 goals so far for F.C. Cincinnati. His lack of international experience is most likely the reason Berhalter chose not to incorporate him right before the tournament.
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Vazquez is still uncapped internationally, meaning he can still choose to represent Mexico should they call him up. Vazquez will definitely be on the international scene following the conclusion of the World Cup.
At the expense of Pefok and Vazquez, Ricardo Pepi and Josh Sargent were included in the squad. Both are expected to be in contention for the starting spot in Qatar.
Pepi recently went on loan to FC Groningen from Augsburg. The forward ended a 352-day goal drought in a 2-1 defeat to Sparta Rotterdam. The 19-year-old still has a lot to prove if he wants to succeed in Europe. But given his record of goal scoring in world cup qualifiers, Pepi will probably be joining Behralter’s boys in Qatar.
Sargent has tallied five goals in eight games in the Championship for Norwich, this season.
The Norwich forward fits Berhalter’s style of play the best of any other forward in consideration. His work in buildup play and record of goal scoring should allow him to play in the World Cup barring any setbacks.
The USMNT take the pitch Friday against Japan and Sept. 27 against Saudi Arabia.