On Thursday, March 18th, Gregg Berhalter went live on ESPN to announce his selection of players for this month’s last round of World Cup Qualification games. With automatic qualification not guaranteed for the Stars & Stripes yet, there were a lot of eyeballs on his roster choices. Below is the full 27 man squad called up.

It is worth noting, at the time of writing, it has been announced that Sergiño Dest has been replaced by George Bello, following Dest’s hamstring injury in FC Barcelona’s Europa League victory yesterday. This gives the squad even numbers at the outside back position on either side of the pitch. Notable exclusions from the 27 man squad are John Brooks of Wolfsburg, Josh Sargent of Norwich, and Weston McKinnie – who is out for the remainder of the season at Juventus with a foot injury. Another surprising note about the roster is the inclusion is Aaron Long, who has only recently come back from an Achilles injury.

All in all, this is the most satisfied I’ve been with a Berhalter WCQ squad since this endeavor began back in September. I personally wanted to see Sargent in the squad, but I don’t get to make the decisions, Berhalter does.
Of course, people on social media were upset with the roster – which was always going to be the case no matter what. That’s part of the job with coaching. Making decisions that not everyone is going to be happy with. So these are the 27 young men that we Outlaws will hang our hopes on.

As far as the three upcoming games go, this undoubtedly is the most difficult window of this iteration of World Cup qualifying. The three opponents, in order, are: away at Mexico (where we haven’t won a World Cup Qualifier since 1934), home against Panama (who gave us our first loss of this WCQ cycle back in October), and away to Costa Rica. All three teams are still in the running for both automatic qualification, as well as the fourth-place playoff birth spot.

So, here’s the good news. Four points put us safe from disqualification, and five points guarantee automatic qualification (assuming Panama and Costa Rica cannot overcome the eight-goal advantage that we hold over both teams in goal difference). At home, the US is 5-1-0 in WQC earning 2.6 points per match, and conceding only twice over six matches.

Now, the bad news. We only have one home game this window. That game against Panama is an absolute must-win. Our record away from home in WCQ is pretty awful. In five games, we’ve picked up 5 points from a possible fifteen with a record of 1-2-2, earning just a point per match. If we take out the drubbing of Honduras away out of the equation, we’ve scored just one goal and conceded four in those four games.

Looking at things from a “points per match perspective”, we are actually in good shape. We average ~nearly~ three points per match at home and exactly one point per match on the road. With two road games and one home game, that would give us the magic number of five points that we need to earn our spot in this year’s iteration of the World Cup to be played in Qatar. However, averages don’t guarantee anything, results do.

The absolute worst-case scenario is three losses. Mexico has a relatively easy window, with the USA at home, away to Honduras, and home against El Salvador. They very easily could have a nine-point window. Panama has to play Honduras at home, travel to the states for a match with us, then back to Honduras to face off with group leading Canada. Costa Rica plays Canada at home, El Salvador on the road, and home against the States. My current prediction for each teams window is as follows:

USA: @ Mexico – L | V. Panama – W | @ Costa Rica – D

Points: 4 | 25

Costa Rica: V. Canada – L | @ El Salvador – W | V. USA – D

Points: 4 |20

Panama: V. Honduras – W | @ USA – L | V. Canada L

Points: 3 |20

Mexico: V. USA – W | @ Honduras – W | V El Salvador W

Points: 9 | 30

In this scenario, Mexico would leapfrog the US for second place, but we would be safe in third place. Fourth place would be even between Panama and Costa Rica and would come down to goal difference.

Now, let’s imagine that shit hits the fan and we lose all three games, and the other results stay the same.

USA: @ Mexico – L | V. Panama – L | @ Costa Rica – L

Points: 0 | 21

Costa Rica: V. Canada – L | @ El Salvador – W | V. USA – W

Points: 6 |22

Panama: V. Honduras – W | @ USA – W | V. Canada L

Points: 6 |23

Mexico: V. USA – W | @ Honduras – W | V El Salvador W

Points: 9 | 30

This is the doomsday scenario. Luckily, we’ve only lost two games for the duration of qualifying, so it’s very hard to imagine us losing three games in a single window. That first game against Mexico is crucial to setting the tone for the rest of the window. If we can pick up a point at the Estadio Azteca, we will be in relatively great shape for the rest of the way. It is worth noting that we did win a point in Mexico back in 2017., although these are two very different teams nearly five years later.

It’s long been said that the road to qualification out of CONCACAF has been to pick up a point on the road and win at home. It’s no different now in March of 2022.


Published by Footy Foster

26 years young. Located in San Diego. I coach high school soccer, sell solar panels, podcast, and blog. My interest and hobbies include listening to music - hip-hop, alternative, and classic rock, - playing and watching soccer, and skiing. I aspire to travel and live a truly free life. These will more often than not be the subject matter of my blogs, as well as an attempt at humor. We'll see about that last part. Enjoy.

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