The 2022 FIFA World Cup is quickly approaching.
After missing out on the tournament in 2018, the U.S. men’s national team is back in the field for 2022. Led by a group of talented young players, expectations are raised for the American squad.
World Cup broadcaster Andrés Cantor sat down with NBC to share his thoughts on Team USA, their outlook for the tournament and one key player to watch in Qatar.
Let’s take a look at Cantor’s preview for the U.S. team:
What stands out about the USMNT?
The World Cup roster for the USMNT hasn’t yet been announced.
But we have a general idea of the players that will head to Qatar. There should be an exciting mix of youth and experience as the U.S. looks to advance through the group stage.
Cantor sees the American team as having a good balance with young talent that has already started playing on the big stage in Europe.
“I believe the U.S. team has a group of very young, but talented players,” Cantor said. “Many of them are mainstays on top European clubs. That experience is invaluable when it comes to the World Cup.
“I have trust and belief that the U.S. can do well,” Cantor said. “Even though the team is, on average, very young, it doesn’t mean they don’t have experience. Christian Pulisic, Giovanni Reyna, (Yunis) Musah, you name it. They have European football under their legs.”
How can the USMNT get out of the group stage?
Following a random draw, the U.S. was placed in Group B with Wales, England and Iran.
The USMNT will face Wales in its first match, before playing England second and closing out the group stage against Iran.
“The most important moment of a World Cup, before the ball is kicked, is the World Cup draw,” Cantor said. “The second most important thing in every World Cup is the opening match.
“So, what (does the U.S.) need to get out of the group stage? Obviously, beat Wales in the opening match and get to the England game with three points in hand. Then, battle it out (against Iran), at least with three points from the opening game. That’s the key, the opening match.”
Who is the player to watch from the USMNT?
When you think of the USMNT, one player immediately comes to mind.
“I will go with the obvious choice, which would be Christian Pulisic,” Cantor said when asked which American player is the most important. “He is probably the most experienced player, a European champion. He plays at the highest level of all, and plays a very defined role at Chelsea.”
Pulisic, 23, has been in the spotlight since he made his national team debut in 2016. He made the move to the English Premier League to play for Chelsea in 2019, where he has scored 19 goals in 80 career appearances.
“He’s such a talented player, and he’s young. He can give you a couple of positions, he can play on the left, on the right or as a false nine.”
“If you ask this question to 10 people that follow the U.S. team, I’m pretty sure nine out of 10 will say Christian Pulisic. He knows that all of the eyes are going to be on him. It’s good that he has the European experience, but this is different. He’s going to wear the captain's armband, and that creates another level of pressure that he hasn’t had at Chelsea.”