The U.S. Men’s National Team is in the midst of preparations for the CONCACAF Nations League, which will kick off this Thursday, but another tournament is just around the corner. The CONCACAF Gold Cup begins just six days after the Nations League final, so the 23-man squad was announced this afternoon. When the team takes the field in Chicago twelve days from now, there could be two Chicago representatives: Djordje Mihailovic and Gaga Slonina.
This opportunity for Mihailovic – to play a prominent role for the U.S. at the international level – is well-deserved and long overdue. The attacking midfielder from Lemont, Illinois, was brought to the Gold Cup in 2019 at 20 years old but barely played and was never brought into a first-team camp for Gregg Berhalter after that, despite a strong season in 2020 with the Fire, a league-leading assist haul in 2021 with Montréal, and MVP-level form in 2022. Now 24, his last appearance for the senior team in a competitive match came four years ago, and this Gold Cup provides an excellent opportunity to raise his stock after a difficult few months with AZ Alkmaar in the Eredivisie.
After shining at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup this Spring, the Gold Cup will provide an excellent chance for Slonina to experience international soccer at the highest level. The 19-year-old from Addison was first called into USMNT camp by Berhalter at the end of 2021 after breaking through with the Fire, and this will be his fourth camp. Gaga made his international debut against Serbia earlier this year, though it’s unlikely he’ll see the field in the Gold Cup with first team #1 Matt Turner also involved.
Interim head coach B.J. Callaghan, who took over suddenly from previous interim Anthony Hudson a few weeks ago, named an intriguing roster for this competition. The aforementioned Turner will lead the team, with World Cup veterans DeAndre Yedlin, Cristian Roldan, Aaron Long, Jordan Morris, Jesús Ferreira, and ex-Fire goalie Sean Johnson involved. Club América’s Alex Zendejas will provide star power on the right wing, while Miles Robinson and Matt Miazga will provide stability in central defense. Jalen Neal and Cade Cowell join Slonina as the other two U-20 players on the roster.
Mihailovic is expected to claim the starting job this month, where he should play a leading role and be the team’s primary creator. Behind Gio Reyna, there is an open competition for players at the number 10 spot, one that could include Leeds’ Brenden Aaronson and, perhaps in a few years’ time, the Fire’s Brian Gutiérrez.
Two of Mihailovic’s former coaches – ex-Fire assistant Marko Mitrović and one-time U.S. U-23 manager Jason Kreis – are members of Callaghan’s staff for the tournament, so there will be several familiar faces in the camp. Slonina also signed his homegrown contract with the Fire while Mitrović was still at the club.
The USMNT will kick off the Gold Cup on June 24th at Soldier Field against Jamaica. Tickets are still widely available. They’ll play in St. Louis on the 28th and in Charlotte on July 2nd in the group stage.