USMNT World Cup mailbag: Gregg Berhalter fallout, a plea for USA in Copa America, 2026 expectations, more

CBS Sports soccer analyst Grant Wahl is in Qatar covering his eighth men’s World Cup. He’ll be writing mailbag columns for CBS after every USMNT game. The rest of his writing, including magazine-style stories, interviews and breaking news, can be found on GrantWahl.com.

DOHA, Qatar — The US are out at the World Cup after a 3-1 round of 16 loss to the Netherlands. But you still have plenty of questions, and I have some answers. Let’s go!

“How likely is our inclusion in Copa America 2024? It would be great for the team and the fans to have a high-stakes competition off-cycle to the World Cup.” — @ethanbing

It’s pretty simple for me: They absolutely have to play in the 2024 Copa America. For that matter, so should Mexico and Canada. There won’t be a World Cup qualifying campaign to go through, so the US needs to get as many competitive situations as possible to prepare for 2026. The only question for me is whether the US should push to host that Copa América. Ecuador appears to have lost interest in hosting the tournament, and it would be a good dry run for the cities that will be hosting the 2026 World Cup games.

“Which of the 26 guys on the US roster do not have a realistic shot at returning for 2026?” — @ToluThomas

Not many. Tim Ream will be 38, so it seems unlikely. Others who I would be surprised to see in 2026: Haji Wright, DeAndre Yedlin, Jordan Morris, Sean Johnson, Aaron Long and Cristian Roldan.

“Which USMNT players set themselves up for a transfer to a bigger or better situation?” — @AdamLawley

Tyler Adams has already shown with Leeds United that he’s an effective player in the Premier League, and he’s just 23 with a monster leadership capacity. Tim Weah could go to a club that would play him more than Lille has. Yunus Musah just turned 20, and while he didn’t totally light things up here, he was pretty good. Walker Zimmerman is good enough to play in Europe, and Matt Turner is good enough to be a starter somewhere in Europe.

“I admittedly have not watched Gio Reyna play before, but after all the calls for him to play I found his performance today underwhelming. Am I wrong to think he looked slow and not particularly dynamic?” — @JaredSerwer

Center forward isn’t exactly Reyna’s best position, but he did play a bit better when he got shifted out wide. I think he’d be most effective in a No. 10 roles. The fact is Reyna has yet to produce that much for the USMNT to match what he has shown at club level, but he hasn’t had that many opportunities with the national team due to his injuries and not being given much of a chance to play here.

“Should Berhalter be held accountable for starting Jesus Ferreira when he didn’t play a single minute in the group stage, his last competitive minutes were on Oct. 23 and he had one assist and zero goals in the five games prior to the Oct. 23 matches?” — @downsjm

It’s not Ferreira’s fault, but I think he was set up to fail against the Netherlands for the reasons you mention. Playing zero minutes in the group stage and then having to start a World Cup elimination game is kind of crazy when you think about it. Some of it had to do with Josh Sargent being injured, but it also made more sense than ever to start Weah in the No. 9 and Reyna or Brenden Aaronson on the wing. The fact that Aaronson didn’t start a single game at this World Cup is mind-boggling.

“We’ve heard for weeks about how this is a young team and getting out of the group should be viewed as a success. Looking to 2026: As a host nation with a more experienced squad, should we have higher expectations? Final eight at a minimum?” — @Todd9115

Yes. I think the expectations for the US in 2026 will be to reach at least the quarterfinals, and anything less would be viewed as a disappointment. That’s due both to the support (and top seed in the draw) that comes with being a host country, as well as the idea that the US will have an even better team by then. But nothing is ever guaranteed. Qatar, despite being seeded as the host, were absolutely terrible on the field here and ended up being the first nation eliminated in the tournament. Qatar were a lot better when they won the Asian Cup and reached the semifinals of the Gold Cup. There hasn’t been much coverage about why Qatar were so much worse than expected here, but they most definitely were.

“So much from the USMNT bigwigs about changing how the country sees the sport this year, then after the defeat so much about pride and accomplishment. Is 1-2-1 vs. Wales, England, Iran and Netherlands really changing the sport domestically? Is it that much to be proud of?” — @Mollusk_

I think your tone is a little overly downbeat. World Cups are about how far you go, not how many games you win. The high-water mark of the modern USMNT — reaching the World Cup 2002 quarterfinals — came with a record of two wins, one tie and two losses. But it’s still viewed in a very positive way. The US probably should have beaten Wales, and then we’d be looking at two wins in this tournament. But if you watched the performances and listened to smart journalists from other countries, I think it’s accurate to say the US did win some newfound respect here.

“Do you think fatigue played a role in the defensive lapses? If so, what substitutions should/could have been made that wouldn’t have reduced the chances in the group stage?” — @ruutn4uf

I do think fatigue played a role in the Netherlands loss. Tyler Adams, who’s never tired, was a step off the pace, including on the first Dutch goal, and other US players like Yunus Musah appeared to be laboring. It was interesting that after the game US players said they weren’t fatigued, but then again, you don’t expect them to say they were. Sometimes as journalists you just have to write what you see in a game. They looked tired. I do think Berhalter could have done more rotation during the group stage. Nine US players started all four games, which is just too much stress to put on them with short turnarounds between games. Players like Kellyn Acosta, Joe Scally, Brenden Aaronson and Gio Reyna should have gotten more time in this tournament.

“How big of a mistake was it not having Jordan Pefok on the roster? It seems like having someone who can score goals at the highest level would have been nice.” — @VanRouge

I get it. Pefok has scored goals in the German Bundesliga this season at a level higher than the No. 9s the US had here in Qatar. But the fact is that Pefok had been ice cold in the weeks before the World Cup, and he’s not a great fit for Berhalter’s system. I still would have liked to see Pefok included for moments when they were desperate for a goal.

“Your research indicates that coaches do not fare all that much better if they stay on with their national teams after a World Cup. Since that is the case, should the USMNT part company with Gregg Berhalter (regardless of his merits)? And who should be in the running to replace him?” — @GorelickRich

If I were in charge, I would probably hire a new coach. That’s no knock on Berhalter. It’s just that I don’t think it’s smart to keep national team coaches for more than one cycle. The history shows that performance tends to dip in the second cycle. There are always exceptions like Jogi Loew for Germany and Didier Deschamps, but that’s not the rule. Even if Berhalter is a candidate, I think US Soccer should interview him and others for the job moving forward. Find out if Jesse Marsch is interested in interviewing. Look into Loew. See if there are any other prominent coaches who might be interested. This is an important decision.

CBS Sports soccer analyst Grant Wahl is in Qatar covering his eighth men’s World Cup. He’ll be writing mailbag columns for CBS after every USMNT game. The rest of his writing, including magazine-style stories, interviews and breaking news, can be found on GrantWahl.com.

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