Major League Soccer players seldom used when full US national team gathers

Just five of 110 starting positions on the U.S. national team have been filled with Major League Soccer players for the 10 matches the full pool has been available since the 2022 World Cup, including two of 66 since Gregg Berhalter returned as coach.

There are two MLS players on the 23-man roster for Thursday night's CONCACAF Nations League semifinal against Jamaica in Arlington, Texas: Cincinnati defender Miles Robinson and Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender.

“Although they may not be currently playing in Major League Soccer, Major League Soccer has a huge impact on our player pool and always has since its inception.” Berhalter said Wednesday. “We’re grateful for the role of Major League Soccer. We work closely with all the academies, with the first teams of a lot of teams.”

No more than one MLS player has started in any of the 10 games on FIFA international dates in the last 15 months: Robinson was in the lineup against El Salvador, Mexico, Ghana and Oman, and Walker Zimmerman against Canada.

Not a single MLS player started in the two November games. Against Grenada in March 2023, the U.S. played without any MLS players dressing for the first time since the league started play in 1996.

Seven players on the current roster have past MLS experience: goalkeeper Matt Turner; defenders Mark McKenzie, Tim Ream and Joe Scally, midfielder Tyler Adams, winger Brenden Aaronson and forward Ricardo Pepi.

In addition, defender Chris Richards, midfielders Weston McKennie and Gio Reyna, and forward Tim Weah played in MLS youth academies.

Ream, at 36 the oldest player on the roster, was with the New York Red Bulls in 2010 and '11, then went to England with Bolton from 2012-15. He has been with Fulham for the past decade and concluded the Americans benefitted from time with European clubs.

“It does show there’s a lot more development, a lot more guys who are willing to push themselves and really step out of their comfort zones and make moves to Europe and really try to try to make a career out of being away from home.” Ream said. “We’re seeing and reaping the rewards of that, guys who were wanting to make that jump. And you see it every day. Every time we come into camp guys have developed a little bit more, they’re a little bit more stronger, a little bit more developed mentally. They understand the ups and downs.”

After the U.S. failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, the Americans undertook a youth movement centered by a core group of Christian Pulisic, McKennie and Adams. The U.S. reached the second round of the 2022 World Cup before losing to the Netherlands, It is now preparing to host the 2026 tournament.

A close to full-strength roster is on hand for Thursday night's game, and the winner advances to the Nations League final on Sunday against Mexico or Panama. The U.S. then plays in this summer's Copa América.

“Off the field it’s nice to see how they’re maturing and growing,” Berhalter said. “Some of them now have young families and children, and that’s especially gratifying because we’ve worked with them for a long time now.”

West Ham striker Michail Antonio dropped out of Jamaica's roster, the Jamaica Observer reported, and forwards Demarai Gray and Shamari Nicholson are suspended following second yellow cards in a match against Canada in November. Leon Bailey and Trivante Stewart also are missing from coach Heimir Hallgrímsson's Reggae Boyz.

“It puts us on higher alert,” Berhalter said. “The guys that are going to get their opportunity tomorrow night, they’re going to be giving everything to show this coach they want to be part of the squad for Copa América. So it’s a dangerous game for us.”


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