USMNT breaks into FIFA top-10 Men’s World Rankings

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Led by its “Captain America,” Christian Pulisic, the USMNT looks to be a lock for the 2022 World Cup.

A summer spotlighted by wins, and trophies saw the United States Men’s National Soccer Team (USMNT) prepared to compete with superior competition. Stars such as Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, and Giovanna Reyna helped the United States finally gain some well-earned international respect amongst the soccer world.

Following the enormous embarrassment of not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, the USMNT has done a complete 360 and is on the right track to book its way to the Qatar World Cup in 2022. It all started when they brought in head coach Gregg Berhalter in December of 2018 to take over the dismantled team. Berhalter has not only rebuilt the squad and the culture, but he also brought results. With 29 wins and five draws in 40 matches, Berhalter has the highest win percentage of all previous U.S. coaches ever.

Berhalter has done a phenomenal job, but having the talent around him has really contributed to putting the U.S. over the edge. Former USMNT player Eric Eichmann told The Torch, “The pool of players in the U.S. national team is probably the most talented, and there are a lot of them. There is a large number of talented young players, playing in big clubs in Europe at a very young age.” Eichmann continued, “That has never happened before in the history of U.S. soccer, so I think the future for this particular group of players is very bright.”

In a 2019 postgame press conference, Berhalter declared, “We’re on a mission together. What we’re looking to do is change the way the world views American soccer.” Berhalter has done just that with his biggest glory coming in this summer. Back-to-back wins in finals against Mexico in the Nations League and Gold Cup saw the USMNT climb into the Fifa World Ranking top-10 for the first time since 2006.

After a successful season for the Americans in Europe, the United States witnessed its first-ever Champions League winner. USMNT superstar Pulisic played a big part in Chelsea’s conquest of Europe, beating Manchester City on May 29. Just a week later, Pulisic was back out on the field, but this time for the U.S. ready to win his first international trophy.

The U.S. was taking on Mexico on June 6 for the Concacaf Nations League final. After a back and forth game, the score was 2-2 heading into extra time. Nicknamed by fans “Captain-America,” Pulisic, captain of the team, scored the decisive goal to give the U.S. a 3-2 lead and ultimately the title. 

The Nations League win set the tone for this new generation of American players that have been ready to show the world they are for real, but Berhalter and the team weren’t done just yet. Just two months later, the U.S. was getting ready to face Mexico once again, but this time for the Gold Cup Final.

Having lost the last three times they faced Mexico in the Gold Cup final, the USMNT walked onto the field on August 1 with a lot of pressure on their backs. Coming in as the underdogs wasn’t the only issue Berhalter faced that night. Due to the European soccer pre-season starting at around the same time as the Gold Cup, the top stars of the USMNT, who currently play in Europe, weren’t cleared by their clubs to take part in the competition.

Berhalter’s Gold Cup final starting lineup consisted of a side with an average age of under 25 years old, the second youngest lineup ever put out by the USMNT for a final. The inexperience in the team didn’t seem to affect them, and after a long-fought game that headed to extra-time, 24-year-old defender Miles Robinson gave the United States the lead with a header after 117 minutes of play. Robinson’s late goal gave Berhalter his second title with the team and the team’s first Gold Cup since 2017.

Following the most successful summer in recent years, Berhalter and the team began their preparations for the World Cup Qualifiers. After three international breaks so far this season and seven games played throughout the three breaks, the U.S. sits at four wins, two ties, and a loss. The most recent win came against Mexico on November 12. Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie’s goals gave the US a 2-0 win over its rivals, and ultimately saw the American side overtake first place in the Concacaf North America World Cup Qualifiers. The USMNT closed out 2021 with three games and three wins against Mexico, a feat that has never been done in the past.

Although qualifying for next year’s World Cup seems likely, eight games still remain and the team must stay focused through it all. “The U.S. can at least have the potential and the ability to make a good, deep run into the World Cup, and that would be wonderful,” Eichmann said. “As a former national team player, I would love to see that.”

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