What can the United States rely on for 2026?

AL RAYYAN, Qatar — At first, Tyler Adams bent over with his hands on his knees. It was in this position of exhaustion, and not a moment before, that he was forced to face reality. The United States’ race to the World Cup was over. He crouched down, ran his hands through the grass and sat down.

The entire streak lasted only around four minutes and as Adams was hugged by several team-mates, the victorious Netherlands side celebrated their 3-1 win from close quarters. Frustration was the first emotion to set in. For Adams, his team had put on the type of performance that could have earned him a win on another day.

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“I’m not going to sit here and say Holland was better than us,” Adams said. “I would say we dominated for the majority of the game. We made them feel uncomfortable for the majority of the game. It’s frustrating.”

In those other moments, however, when the Dutch were dominating, they had the balance and the ruthlessness to make them count. It’s a quality that separates the teams that can truly compete to win the World Cup from those that can only hope to do so in the future.

It wasn’t a surprise exit for the United States, nor was it unfair. The team did not reach its ceiling, but it came close. There were enough key moments that erupted in Holland’s favor to make them regret a lifetime.

This is the case for the tournament once every four years. What if Christian Pulisic converted his first chance to go up 1-0? What if the Netherlands don’t score just before half-time? But as Adams sat there and processed what happened, his frustration was overcome by the prospect.

“I think this is probably the first time in a long time that people will say, ‘Wow, this team has something special,'” Adams said of the team’s overall World Cup performance. “There’s been so many ups and downs over the last three years, and then when you put four performances like that on the pitch, it really gives people something exciting. The potential is only all potential, but you can see if we maximize in the right way it can be something.”

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Herc Gomez reckons Louis van Gaal tactically outplayed Gregg Berhalter in the USA’s World Cup exit from Qatar in the Round of 16.

At some point, the failure of the United States to qualify for the 2018 World Cup will not be worth discussing. However, there are still times when this lesson is worth revisiting. It’s a. About five years ago, the team finished fifth out of six teams in the CONCACAF qualifying process and missed out on the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

It was an unfathomable low and rightly ridiculed. Apart from the emergence of Pulisic, nothing in this cycle has generated anything worth looking forward to. It seems so far away now. The United States took the second-youngest team to Qatar, used the youngest average starting XI and were, more often than not, the best team on the pitch by a decent margin.

Apart from Tim Ream, 35, whose consistency has illustrated the value of experience, every major contributor should be closer to their expected peak when the United States co-hosts the tournament with Mexico and Canada in four years. .

“It shows that we’ve talked about the growth of the American player,” center back Walker Zimmerman said. “How dynamic this team can be, the individuals we have that create a brand of football that is exciting to watch.

“I think this World Cup showed that attacking talent, it showed that fight and I think a lot of American fans can watch that and be proud of the way we played, the way we did our job. . I think we’ll be back hungrier than ever.”

But, again, potential is only potential. The next four years will be among the most pivotal for the sport in American history. The same can be said for this national team. More young Americans are sure to break into Europe’s top clubs and many of those there will see their careers take positive steps.

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Frank Leboeuf criticizes the USA defense as the team pulled out of the Qatar World Cup against the Netherlands in the round of 16.

Major League Soccer also has a big role to play. The professionalization and maturity of the league’s development academies could be the most important factor in expanding the pool of potential national team players.

Of course, these types of proclamations about football in the United States are nothing new. During this World Cup, we were reminded that in the late 1990s, current Iranian coach Carlos Queiroz studied the American development model and released a report with recommendations designed to help the United States to win the World Cup by 2010.

In retrospect, that was an absurd goal – and probably to most rational observers at the time – but the facts are that the men’s team has progressed furthest in the modern era, it’s the quarter-final journey of final in 2002, when they beat rivals Mexico to get there. From a baseline perspective, the United States had not improved.

Success is often measured by expectations. This is why this year’s performance should be celebrated. Exiting the group was always going to be the benchmark metric, but in 2026 that will change. This is partly because the format will change – the tournament expands to 48 teams – but more so because of what should be realistic based on the talent and experience the team will have.

And with that comes the obvious question: will Gregg Berhalter still be the coach? The fact that the question should be asked is not an indictment of the work done by Berhalter, it is the natural next step in assessing what is best for the future of any national team at the end of a World Cup cycle.

Berhalter has done a lot of good. The results speak for themselves: qualified for the World Cup; came out of the group and looked pretty good doing it; defeated Mexico in a pair of finals; established a culture that players want to be part of and recruited talented dual nationals.

These are all major achievements. But it’s also difficult to know where to assign the credit. After all, he is coaching the most talented generation of American players that has ever lived. That’s where most of the criticism he gets comes from.

Of course, they qualified. Of course, they beat Mexico. Of course, they advanced. Look who’s on the list! It is a logical point of view. Players are the inordinate reason for success or failure. Still, Berhalter’s player selection, substitution schemes and lack of tactical in-game adjustments were often questionable.

Despite all the talent we hear about and talk about, this has never been a team that was consistently dangerous for goals, even against some of CONCACAF’s minnows. USA owned the ball more comfortably, played at the back and did a lot of things that represent progress, but it’s hard to place too much value on those things when they don’t come with an increase in goals. Some coaches are suitable for different stages of a team’s growth. And over the past few years, it’s hard to argue that Berhalter hasn’t sufficiently steered the team in the right direction.

At the same time, nothing in his coaching past indicates that he is the best option to take the team to new heights. Someone who can do this is ultimately the person who should coach the team.

“We talked a lot about legacy and leaving a legacy,” Zimmerman said. “That’s what hurts. We felt like this was a group that could have done something that no American team had done before.”

It’s one thing for that to happen in Qatar with a squad full of World Cup debutants. It would be something completely different to have it happen again in four years with us.

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