For USA, the main target now shifts to 2026 World Cup

DOHA, Qatar – Tyler Adams put his fingers on his knees and hung his head. Teammates came to visit, one after the other, to pat their fearless captain on the again or give him a hug. After a few seconds, Adams kneeled on the turf at Khalifa Worldwide Stadium, head nonetheless down, as ideas rushed by way of his thoughts.

The ultimate whistle had simply blown on the US males’s nationwide group’s 2022 World Cup. The journey was over after a 3-1 loss to the Netherlands.

“For me, frustration to begin with,” Adams stated, explaining what he was pondering throughout these moments. “It’s the first time in a long time people will say, ‘Wow, this team has something special.’ There were so many ups and downs the past three years and when you put four performances like that out on the field, it really gives people something to be excited about with the potential for this group.

“Potential is simply potential. But when we maximize it in the fitting method, we will do one thing.”

Tyler Adams discusses how much growth is to come for the young USMNT team

Tyler Adams discusses how much growth is to come for the young USMNT team

The U.S. wanted to win the World Cup. The team wasn’t satisfied just making it out of Group B and earning a spot in the Round of 16. Other U.S. squads have done that, including the most recent squads that played in the 2010 and 2014 tournaments.

The players wanted to take on Lionel Messi and Argentina in the quarterfinal next week. They wanted to face Brazil in the semifinal and France in the final. That’s what this young and ambitious group wanted to do in Qatar.

The Americans came up short of their goals and were glum and disheartened in the aftermath. A dejected Christian Pulisic embraced his parents. Gio Reyna declined to speak with reporters, walking through the mixed zone saying, “Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry.” Tim Ream, the oldest player on the roster at 35 years old, had tears in his eyes knowing he’d likely played in his first and last World Cup.

And while battling every emotion, the historically young USMNT still had the foresight and maturity to look forward and have perspective.

“I imply, we had a typical purpose 4 years in the past, a mission we set out on which was to vary the best way the world views American soccer,” midfielder Weston McKennie said. “I feel this event restored lots of perception, restored lots of respect to U.S. Soccer and soccer in our nation.

“We’ve shown that we can be giants, eventually. We may not be there yet, but I think we are definitely on our way.”

‘We did not need the journey to finish’ – an emotional Weston McKennie discusses USMNT mindset transferring ahead

'We didn't want the journey to end' - an emotional Weston McKennie discusses USMNT mindset moving forward

The U.S. not solely had the second-youngest roster in Qatar, however performed the 4 youngest beginning lineups within the event. It is a squad of rising expertise, most of whom will probably be round in 4 years when the US co-hosts the 2026 World Cup with neighbors Mexico and Canada. In reality, the majority of that group nonetheless will not even be 30 years outdated. Adams, McKennie and Pulisic will all be 27. Sergino Dest and Brenden Aaronson will probably be 25. Reyna will probably be 23.

By then, they’re going to have 4 extra years of taking part in on the highest degree of the game within the high European leagues. Perhaps a few of them will play in a Champions League Remaining. However maybe most significantly, they now have World Cup expertise to hold with them.

Coming into this event, solely defender DeAndre Yedlin had ever been to or performed in a single as a part of the 2014 group.

“The biggest thing in this group is learning what it feels like to lose in a World Cup,” Yedlin stated a pair hours after the Netherlands match. “Now you go into the next one and pretty much everybody in that group, probably, will have played in the World Cup. So now it’s a whole different story. Now they know that feeling of what it’s like to lose after putting so much into it and the feeling of defeat.

“The previous can solely gasoline success sooner or later.”

There’s this notion within the USMNT that things happen for a reason. Had it qualified in 2018, maybe they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to build a special brotherhood as many of these players earned their first senior team call-ups in the aftermath of that qualifying disaster. 

Over the past four years, the bulk of the squad built a foundation, an identity, a culture and became close friends. During the pandemic, guys stayed in touch from all around the world, talking on headsets while playing video games. At their team hotel in Doha, there were 15-20 players at any given time playing pool or cards or eating together rather than being alone in their room on their phones.

Then again, what if the Americans had qualified and played in Russia four years ago? Adams, McKennie and Pulisic would have had that World Cup experience before 2022. Maybe a few other players as well. Would things have gone differently this year? 

Regardless, there’s hope for the future. Not just because of the youth and talent that will only get better with time, but because of the solid relationships and chemistry they’ve developed.

“The assumption we’ve got in one another and the bond that we’ve got off the sphere is completely different,” defender Walker Zimmerman said. “It is completely different than any group I have been part of.

“The love that we have for each other and the way that the guys who didn’t play a single minute supported the guys who played every minute. That’s unique. And it’s not easy to do knowing that half the guys are giving up their dream of playing in a World Cup just to support [the other] guys in a World Cup. And to truly have guys that believe in that, believe in the process as a team, that’s what makes this group different.”

To make this all value it in 4 years, although, the group has work to do. For one, it wants a correct, dependable striker. Coach Gregg Berhalter stated after the match that the Netherlands’ attacking high quality was the distinction Saturday.

“We don’t have a Memphis Depay right now, who’s scoring in the Champions League,” Berhalter stated of the Oranje and Barcelona ahead who scored within the tenth minute. “But that’s not to make an excuse for this group. It’s still a resilient group. A group that works hard and has a great spirit. That stuff is going to come.”

Gregg Berhalter exhibits pleasure for his group and is inspired for the way forward for USMNT

Gregg Berhalter shows pride for his team and is encouraged for the future of USMNT

The U.S. proved its value in 4 robust matches towards veteran opponents with gamers and coaches who’ve been right here earlier than. The People went toe to toe with England and had been resilient towards the Netherlands, two top-10 groups on this planet, per FIFA rankings. They impressed world-renowned coaches and gamers.

On Friday, Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal known as the USMNT an “excellent team … I would even say, one of the best teams. One of the teams that’s fine-tuned.”

After the sport Saturday, Netherlands goalkeeper Andries Noppert stated: “In my opinion, they’re really tough. They go like crazy like hell. They’re working together. They don’t give up.”

It could be laborious to grasp all of this in the meanwhile. However as soon as the USMNT climbs out from below the rubble of disappointment, it will possibly confidently use this expertise as a springboard for 2026.

“I think it will help a lot,” McKennie stated. “Americans are known as people that don’t give up and the U.S. is the land of opportunity. And I think this was a big opportunity for a lot of us in this tournament. And I think we did really well with it.

“Clearly we went out and it sucks. However on the identical time, lots of us will use this as a chip on our shoulder over the following 4 years to try to show what we will do.”

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Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and soccer for FOX Sports. She previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of “Robust Like a Girl,” published in spring 2022 to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @LakenLitman.

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