USMNT 2026 World Cup: The three things Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and company need to take next step

For the United States men’s national team, the 2022 World Cup is already in the rear-view mirror and after a successful tournament where they made the round of 16, it’s time to quickly turn the page and look ahead at what’s to come. While all eyes will be on how this team evolves for the 2026 World Cup, there is still plenty to try and achieve in the years leading up to it, and they’ll be expected to make it to the quarterfinals when they host the next edition as expectations rise. 

But there were three glaring issues that need to be resolved for this team to further contend in the years to come.

Here is what Gregg Berhalter, or whoever his successor is, must do moving forward to further see his team improve:

Find that striker

If this World Cup benefited any striker that the United States men’s national team has in its pool, it may just be Ricardo Pepi. A surprise snub on the final roster despite regaining form at Groningen in the Netherlands after a questionable and failed move to Augsburg, he felt like the hot hand to ride into Qatar at least as a depth option.

He has seven goals in 10 games for the Eredivisie team while on loan, and the U.S. got just one goal from a striker at the tournament, a fluke from Haji Wright in the 3-1 loss to the Netherlands to bow out in the knockout stage. 

The No. 9 position produced next to nothing in the four games for the U.S., failing to get into dangerous positions as defenses appeared much more worried about the talent on the wing than they did Josh Sargent, Jesus Ferreira or Wright.

There also feels like there will be a real chance for Darryl Dike and Jordan Pefok to play their way into the rotations again as well considering how anemic the strikers were this World Cup. Sure, Sargent’s hold-up play was good, but he’s not there for that, he’s there to score. 

More than any other position on the field, striker is an area where the U.S. desperately needs somebody to develop into a star, or to find a new option either through development or as a dual national to come in and make the position their own.

Establish midfield depth

The midfield trio of Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah is the best in Concacaf at the moment, and there is no reason to believe that they won’t only continue to get better. Adams is just 23, McKennie is 24 and Musah just turned 20.

But let’s be honest — there is absolutely zero depth behind them. They logged a ton of minutes, and by the end of the first half against the Dutch, they were absolutely gassed. They put forth admirable performances and each were able to shine in their own right, Adams more than others, but to not be able to insert even just one player and feel confident about the team’s ability, that’s quite the issue that needs to be addressed. 

They are a trio in the midfield that need to improve in many facets, including in creating going forward, but this is a foundation even some European nations would love to have. 

But the key is going to be giving them some depth so that they can also use more of their energy going forward, mainly McKennie and Musah. 

Also keep an eye on Johnny Cardoso as somebody who could really help behind Adams.

Get center back set with a top duo

The United States aren’t Brazil with Thiago Silva or Marquinhos, and heck, they aren’t even England with John Stones and Harry Maguire, but the comfort of having a pairing you can rely on just makes everything around you easier, and it needs to happen with Miles Robinson and Chris Richards. Sure, they both have dealt with injury issues that kept them out of the World Cup, an unfortunate circumstance beyond their control. Butt the U.S. must aim to find their pair ahead of 2026, with these two leading the charge. 

The fact that Berhalter had to bring in little-used Tim Ream and then start him, at 35, is a glaring concern. The good thing is that there of potential, and if they both can figure out their club situations. Miles Robinson wants to test himself in Europe at some point, knowing his ceiling at Atlanta United is only so high. Richards can get a game at Crystal Palace, and a move elsewhere is needed, maybe even as soon as January. 

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