After missing out on the previous tournament in Russia, the USMNT will want to make up for lost time in Qatar. But what are the realistic hopes for this team at World Cup 2022?
After the embarrassment of not even qualifying for the World Cup in 2018, it is fair to say that the USMNT has something to prove in Qatar later this year. At a time when many people in the States will be making their NBA betting selections, the national soccer team will be kicking off against some of the best in the world.
The initial group draw was greeted with renewed confidence by many fans. But there are three very good teams to play – and only the top two go through to the knockout rounds. Will the USMNT be able to make it past the opening phase?
A Short History
This will be the 11th World Cup finals that the US has made it to. The best performance was at the very first back in 1930 when it made it to the semifinal stage – even though the team only had to play two games to get there. After a famous 1-0 win against England in 1950, there was then 40 years away from the main stage.
The tournament in Italy in 1990 started a successive run of seven World Cup finals for the US, before missing out in 2018. The round of 16 has been the extent of its journey recently, apart from a run to the quarterfinals in 2002 when Germany finally ended the dream.
Group B: Wales
Now the US are back at the finals and will face Wales in its first game in Group B on Monday 21 November. The other two teams in the group will have played earlier in the day and a positive result will be needed if the USMNT harbor any real hopes of progressing to the knockout rounds.
Wales will be no pushover though. MLS fans have been getting a chance to see just how good Gareth Bale is after his move to LAFC earlier in the year. But Wales is far from the one-man team that it is sometimes portrayed as. Gregg Berhalter’s side will be on top form to get something from this one.
Group B: England
Next up is potentially the toughest game of the group. England will have already played Iran at this point and will probably be looking for a second win that would see it through to the round of 16. This could be a very tense affair – especially if everything didn’t go to plan in the opening game.
Although the US will definitely head into this game as the underdog, there will be plenty of players used to coming up against the English squad in the domestic league. Results have not been kind to England in recent months either, so Gareth Southgate might be under real pressure to get a result.
Group B: Iran
Even Gregg Berhalter would probably concede that he expects the US to be going into the final group game against Iran needing to pick up a point or three to confirm its passage to the next round. With England as the second game, that is why the opening fixture is so important.
But the US should be confident of beating Iran. This is a good team but the preparation for the tournament has been chaotic, to say the least. There is now a new man in charge though – and Carlos Quieroz could use all his years of experience at the top level to make things tough for the US.
If the US does navigate its way out of the group stage it will more than likely be in second place and therefore face the winners of Group A in the round of 16. As far as any knock out game at a World Cup is far from easy, this is probably the best draw that the US could have hoped for.
With Qatar taking the number one seed in the group as host, there is no team to match the strength of Brazil, Spain or Argentina, for example. That is not to say that one of the Netherlands, Ecuador or Senegal would be an easy draw. But it will give the US the best chance of making it through to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2002.