United States World Cup Preview & Analysis: Schedule, Roster & Projections

United States World Cup Preview & Analysis: Schedule, Roster & Projections article feature image

Pictured: Christian Pulisic.

The 2022 FIFA World Cup has arrived, and Action Network's staff of soccer experts are here to take you through each and every team that will be participating. 

Read on for a full breakdown of the United States ahead of the tournament, and click here for analysis on each of the other 31 teams.

United States World Cup Preview

The United States are back in the World Cup after missing out in 2018. They are in a new era looking to make their mark on the world’s stage. With a lot of the United States’ star players under the age of 26, it’s going to be exciting to see if they can get past the Round of 16 for the first time since 2002. 

It was a good CONCACAF Qualifying campaign for the Stars and Stripes , finishing third in the hexagonal and earning an automatic qualification to the World Cup. The United States had good underlying metrics, but they had a few questionable results away from home. They averaged 1.7 xG per 90 minutes while only allowing 0.72 xG per 90 minutes over their 14 World Cup Qualifying matches, which is impressive. However, losing on the road and getting out-played by Panama and Canada leaves a few question marks for the US side. 

For the first time in United States history, most of their players are playing overseas in Europe’s biggest leagues. The Stars and Stripes have 13 of their 26 players on their roster playing in one of Europe’s top five leagues and five players currently playing in the English Premier League. 

Chances To…Action Projectionsbet365 Odds
Win Group Stage15.31%+550
Advance To Knockout Round55.95%+100
Win World Cup1.06%+15000
Odds as of publish. Action projections by Nick Giffen of the Action Predictive Analytics team.

It’s up in the air who will start in goal for the United States. Matt Turner has made his move to be the backup goalkeeper for Arsenal, while Zack Steffen is on loan at Middlesbrough in the English Championship this season. Steffen has not been performing well, as he has a -2.5 post shot xG +/-, per fbref.com. So, we may see Greg Berhalter prefer Turner, who is in better form. 

In defense, Walker Zimmerman is locked in at one of the center back spots with the other up for grabs at the moment. Sergino Dest, who is currently playing at AC Milan, will be starting at right back, with the left back position in question between Antonee Robinson or Joe Scally, who are both promising options. 

The midfield in Berhalter’s 4-3-3 system is very straightforward: It’ll be Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah, who are all in great form at the club level and should be able to dominate the games against Wales and Iran. 

Up front, star player Christian Pulisic will be playing on the left with Giovanni Reyna on the right. The middle is a question mark, and Berhalter has a decision to make. He could go with the in-form Jesús Ferreira, who seemingly fits his system the best, or it could be Timothy Weah or Brendan Aaronson as a false nine. Either way, the United States have a lot of talented options up top. 

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Key Player: Christian Pulisic

Although he’s struggling to find playing time right now for Chelsa, Pulisic is still “Captain America” and the United States’ best attacking option. During World Cup Qualifying, he led the Stars and Stripes with five goals in only seven full 90s. 

Pulisic is outstanding with the ball at his feet. From 2019 to 2021, when he was regularly playing for Chelsea, he averaged 2.75 dribbles completed per 90 minutes, which was top 20 in the Premier League. He also averaged 4.5 shot-creating actions per 90 minutes, which was 12th in the Premier League at that time. This season, he’s played only five full 90s, but he still has 19 shot-creating actions, showing he still possesses the ability that Chelsea paid for when they dropped $58 million for him in 2019. 

What people don’t talk about enough with Pulisic is his work rate off the ball. He’s incredibly intelligent at finding space in between the lines or making half-runs to create space for others. Then, out of possession, he’s above the 80th percentile in aerial duels won per 90 minutes this season and is outstanding in a high pressing system. Even though he hasn’t featured much for Chelsea this season, Pulisic is still the United States’ most important player. 

Tactical Analysis

Berhalter typically employs a 4-3-3 system with a little bit of a different spin than the possession-based, intricate passing systems that you typically see with this formation at some of the biggest clubs in the world. 

He wants his center backs to stay patient at the back and then quickly transition the ball up to the forwards between the lines to put pressure on the opposing back line. The United States also love to continue to pass the ball until the best possible chance opens up. They have one of the lowest average shot distances in the World Cup field, highlighting Berhalter’s philosophy of quality over quantity when it comes to chance creation. 

The United States also do a great job at controlling possession and not making too many mistakes as they also operate well under heavy pressure. 

Out of possession, the team is very difficult to break down because they have one of the highest aerial duels won percentages and ball recoveries per 90 minutes in the World Cup field. Their 4-3-3 out of possession will sometimes become a 4-4-2 or a 4-2-3-1 with players rotating to drop deep or press up, causing a lot of confusion for the opponents. 

If there is one weakness for the United States, it’s transition defense, which has plagued them for a long time. It’s critical for the center backs and midfielders not to make careless mistakes when in possession. 

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United States World Cup Schedule

Wales2 p.m. ET, Nov. 21
England2 p.m. ET, Nov. 25
Iran2 p.m. ET, Nov. 29

Most Recent World Cup Result

Round of 16 (2014)

The United States progressed out of the "Group of Death" at the 2014 World Cup, getting a point against Portugal and beating Ghana to advance. They then played an extra time classic against Belgium, where the Red Devils secured a 2-1 result. All goals in the fixture came across extra time.

A final game defeat against Trinidad and Tobago at the end of 2018 World Cup Qualifying meant the United States missed out on the 2018 World Cup Finals.

United States World Cup Roster

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