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USMNT starting lineup options for pre-World Cup friendly vs Japan

Joe Prince-Wright, Andy Edwards and Nick Mendola react to Gregg Berhalter's 26-man squad ahead of the United States' slate of pre-World Cup friendlies.

180 minutes of friendlies, against Japan and Saudi Arabia this week, is all the time that Gregg Berhalter will have with USMNT players before the squad reports to 2022 World Cup camp in November.

[ MORE: Five questions for the USMNT | Japan vs USMNT preview ]

Serious questions remain over at least two starting spots for the USMNT, with the 2022 tournament in Qatar now under two months away. Center back and center forward are, worryingly, total unknowns at this point. They were at the start of World Cup qualifying last October, and they remain so today.

Left back will be something of a trouble spot for Berhalter this international window, due to Antonee Robinson picking up an ankle injury while playing for Fulham on Sept. 3, but the 25-year-old isn’t expected to miss much time and remains on track to start against Wales on Nov. 21.

Join our live Q&A over on NBC Sports’ YouTube channel following the Japan vs USMNT game on Friday, Sept. 23, as we will be live from around 10:30am ET to answer your questions!

PST’s Joe Prince-Wright expertly broke down the situation at each position this week (below), and then we’ll look at some of the potential (and likely) options for Berhalter when the Yanks face Japan in Dusseldorf, Germany.

With red-hot Jordan Pefok surprisingly left off this roster despite his incredible start to the season for Bundesliga leaders Union Berlin, the duo of Ricardo Pepi and Josh Sargent have been given one final chance to prove themselves to Berhalter. Gio Reyna is back in the squad, which is a huge boost, and it gives Berhalter so many options in the attacking midfield areas. How will he squeeze Brenden Aaronson, Christian Pulisic and Reyna into the same starting lineup? Can he?

At center back things have been complicated by injuries to Cameron Carter-Vickers and Chris Richards, who were set to battle it out to see who starts alongside Walker Zimmerman at the World Cup. The likes of Aaron Long, Mark McKenzie and Erik Palmer-Brown will see this as a huge opportunity to make the roster as it seems unlikely Miles Robinson will make the squad following his Achilles injury. Yunus Musah being out with an injury is a blow as he was certain to start alongside Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie in midfield. In goal, Zack Steffen is out after being out injured and only just returning so Ethan Horvath and Sean Johnson will battle it out for that third and final goalkeeping spot with Matt Turner now looking like the starter.


Best possible/highest upside USMNT lineup


Dest -- Zimmerman -- McKenzie -- Scally

Adams -- De la Torre


Aaronson -- Ferreira -- Pulisic

In-form USMNT lineup


Yedlin -- Zimmerman -- Palmer-Brown -- Scally

Adams -- Acosta


Aaronson -- Sargent -- Pulisic

Likeliest USMNT lineup


Yedlin -- Zimmerman -- Long -- Dest

Adams -- Acosta


Aaronson -- Ferreira -- Pulisic

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