Between the MLS All-Star break and the Leagues Cup, much free time without Chicago Fire soccer has suddenly popped up midsummer. Such a long pause in the schedule presents an excellent opportunity to reflect on the international soccer that occurred this summer and see which players raised their stocks during the competitions over the last month. So, here’s a look at the USMNT depth chart as the second Gregg Berhalter era begins to commence and what players deserve a look heading into the first friendlies in September.
1. Matt Turner (Arsenal) – The USMNT’s clear #1 only continues to get better and has improved significantly since his move to Arsenal last summer. While he hasn’t seen much game time for Mikel Arteta’s team, Turner has strengthened his ability to play with his feet and is now established enough that if an opportunity presents itself, he could be a starting goalkeeper elsewhere in the Premier League.
2. Ethan Horvath (Nottingham Forest) – Despite missing out on the summer tournaments with injury, Horvath is still the second best American goalkeeper today. Luton Town did not activate his buy option following their promotion to the Premier League, so he’ll likely be searching for a new home in the Championship or abroad.
3. Drake Callender (Inter Miami) – The goalkeeper whose stock has gone up the most in 2023 is Callender, a rare bright spot in the first half of Inter Miami’s season. With Lionel Messi arriving in South Florida, lots of eyes will be on the 25-year-old, a Nations League champion earlier this summer, and he should get opportunities to remain in the USMNT pool.
4. Gaga Slonina (Chelsea) – As of right now, the ex-Chicago Fire homegrown is the #2 goalkeeper for Chelsea behind Kepa Arrizabalaga. After making his international debut earlier this year, starring at the U-20 World Cup, and being a part of the Gold Cup squad, Gaga is firmly a part of the national team picture and could end up making some rosters as the third goalie with an eye toward 2026.
5. Sean Johnson (Toronto FC) – While Johnson was a part of both summer tournaments for the USMNT, his days as a member of the squad are likely limited. The former Fire keeper is now 34, and with Callender, Slonina, Roman Celentano, and Chris Brady only getting better, it’s hard to imagine he’ll stick around much longer.
Honorable mentions: Zack Steffen, Roman Celentano, Chris Brady
1. Tim Ream (Fulham) – Despite his advanced age, Ream played a 2022/23 season at a level unprecedented for any American center back in history, producing one of the most incredible and surprising late-career revivals we’ve ever seen. While he will be 38 by the next World Cup, no U.S. defender played to a higher level than Ream last season, so there’s no reason he should be phased out yet, and could prove to be an experienced roster piece through until the end of the cycle.
2. Chris Richards (Crystal Palace) – Talent-wise, Richards is the best of the bunch, and he should be locked into the starting XI all the way through the World Cup (provided he stays healthy, which has been difficult for him over the past three years). Still just 23, the sky is the limit for Richards, who will only get better as time passes and emerges as a complete, ball-playing, Premier League-level defender.
3. Miles Robinson (Atlanta United) – Despite some shaky moments while battling injury during the Gold Cup, Robinson remains a key part of the national team pool and a possible starter if either of the top two are unavailable. With athleticism unmatched amongst all the center backs listed here, he will be a reliable option throughout the cycle, having shown his dominance in World Cup qualifying and in the Nations League against Mexico.
4. Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic) – CCV entered the USMNT picture just before the last World Cup and seized his opportunities, ultimately putting in a near-flawless performance in the crucial match against Iran. He could be making a Premier League move this summer after two excellent seasons at Celtic, and should be a great depth piece at center back going forward for the USMNT.
5. Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC) – It does feel harsh putting Zimmerman below CCV after his impeccable showing in the Nations League final against Canada, but the truth is, he’s on the wrong side of 30 and will be 33 by the World Cup. Still, he’s a pretty reliable option to have, and a leader in the group who could be a good guy to bring into camp for his locker room presence alone.
6. Auston Trusty (Arsenal) – Another member of the Nations League winning team, Trusty has tremendous value in the pool as a left-footed center back playing at a high level in England. His importance throughout the cycle will be impacted by the level maintained by Ream, the only other natural leftie, but he’ll only continue to improve and knock on the door of the pool.
7. Mark McKenzie (Genk) – Admittedly, McKenzie had a phenomenal season in the Belgian League and deserved a USMNT look this summer, but those who were called into the Nations League ahead of him performed well enough that it hurts his chances of breaking back in immediately. He still has tons of talent, though, and it would be no surprise to see him quickly climb the rankings once more.
8. Jalen Neal (LA Galaxy) – No player has seen their USMNT stock rise more in 2023 than 19-year-old Neal, who was the best player relative to expectations at the Gold Cup. If he continues his trajectory, he’ll be firmly in the first team picture by 2026, but there’s still plenty of work to do before he can break into that fold.
Honorable mentions: Matt Miazga, Josh Wynder, Erik Palmer-Brown, John Brooks
1. Sergiño Dest (Barcelona) – Though currently in preseason with Barcelona, Dest’s club future remains unclear. His incredible performance against Mexico in the Nations League semifinal showcased his top talent, but he needs to find a place to play regularly in order to reach his full potential as an elite right back in European soccer.
2. Antonee Robinson (Fulham) – Robinson is the only left back currently at the national team level, and it’s rather likely that unless a youngster like Jonathan Gómez can take a big leap forward, he’ll be the only natural left back on the 2026 roster. His ceiling is, admittedly, limited, but no one comes even close to him right now, and won’t for the foreseeable future.
3. Joe Scally (Mönchengladbach) – In the Nations League, 20-year-old Scally proved that he’s the best backup for both Dest and Robinson. Berhalter didn’t give Scally the opportunities he probably deserved leading up to and at the World Cup, so there may be some issues that need to be overcome, but talent-wise Scally is a super reliable option on either side.
4. Bryan Reynolds (Roma) – The level certainly drops substantially after the first three, but Reynolds is still a talented right back who will only continue to improve. The Roma-owned defender used the Gold Cup as an opportunity to not only displace DeAndre Yedlin but functionally end the veteran’s national team career; while Reynolds remains a part of the pool, Tim Weah’s newfound ability to fill in at right back could make breaking into rosters more challenging.
5. DeJuan Jones (New England Revolution) – The two-footed New England defender also saw his stock rise in the Gold Cup, but he’s still quite a bit off the level of the top three fullbacks. Nonetheless, his assist to Brandon Vázquez in the quarterfinal was a thing of beauty, and he should be a depth piece for the next couple of years.
Honorable mentions: Jonathan Gómez, DeAndre Yedlin, Shaq Moore, Caleb Wiley
1. Weston McKennie (Juventus) – In the Nations League against Mexico, McKennie showed how good he can be when given freedom in midfield and was a dominant force against El Tri. His club situation is up in the air, but if he can find the right destination to recover from his Leeds mishap, McKennie will reach his full potential and continue to star for the United States.
2. Tyler Adams (Leeds) – Unfortunately for Adams, who was the USMNT’s best player at the World Cup and men’s player of the year in 2022, he was the one whose stock fell the most this summer, and through no fault of his own. Simply put, Yunus Musah, Weston McKennie, and Gio Reyna were so good as starters in Adams’ absence that he will have to fight to be a part of the starting lineup (dependent on the opponent and competition, of course), and he’s no longer the undroppable, irreplaceable player he once was, though his talent is still unquestioned.
3. Yunus Musah (Valencia) – It’s hard to believe that Musah is still just 20 years old, especially following his incredible showings against both Mexico and Canada in the Nations League this summer. His performance as a #6 against Canada, in particular, caught the eye, proving he can be a reliable option in multiple positions for the USMNT, and provided a dilemma for Berhalter going forward as it will be impossible to fit all of Musah, McKennie, Adams, and Reyna into the same midfield.
4. Johnny Cardoso (Internacional) – The talented Brazilian-American midfielder has mostly gone under the radar for the last twelve months but will be a crucial piece of depth for the USMNT for the next few years. A move to Europe is on the cards this summer, and he’ll only continue to improve.
5. Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo) – Probably the most overrated player in the pool, de la Torre has failed to capitalize on the opportunities that he’s gotten for the USMNT since the summer of 2022. He’s clearly been passed up by Cardoso in terms of ability and needs to find a consistent rhythm for his club if he wants to still be in the picture by 2026, but he will still get opportunities if, for no other reason, that no one has yet emerged to totally displace him.
6. Aidan Morris (Columbus Crew) – Sadly, Morris was one of the biggest individual losers from the Gold Cup. The 21-year-old started in the opening match against Jamaica and truthfully did not play to his full potential, and while he’s shown in MLS that he’s much better than that and a truly dynamic #6 option with potential to be a USMNT contributor in the future, that Jamaica performance will be the lasting memory national team fans will have of him for the foreseeable future.
7. James Sands (New York City FC) – Sands had quite the Gold Cup, locking down the starting role as a defensive midfielder, but has some ways to go to reach the level of the first teamers. Still just 23, he has a shot at doing so and being a versatile depth piece, but it seems unlikely.
8. Gianluca Busio (Venezia) – A reasonable showing this summer keeps Busio on the fringes, but he has a lot of work to do to re-enter the first team. Staying at Venezia last season proved to be a mistake, and provided a big setback from reaching his full potential, which was once sky-high.
Honorable mentions: Tim Tillman, Alan Soñora, Kellyn Acosta, Obed Vargas, Noel Buck
1. Gio Reyna (Dortmund) – Berhalter-related controversy aside, Reyna is undoubtedly the USMNT’s most talented player, and he showed that in both Nations League matches in June. Getting the most out of Reyna will be key to any future success, and it’s pretty clear that he’s best utilized in a central role, so the team should be built around that going forward, even if it means that one of Adams, McKennie, and Musah has to be benched.
2. Brenden Aaronson (Union Berlin) – Despite a nightmare second half of the 2022/23 season with Leeds, Aaronson performed to a very high level in the Nations League, and surprised many as he stepped up in a hybrid double pivot/#8 role in the final against Canada, helping to shut down Alphonso Davies in the process. He’ll be a part of the picture for now, and has a fresh start with Champions League club Union Berlin on loan this upcoming season.
3. Djordje Mihailovic (AZ Alkmaar) – Two MVP-level seasons in Montréal weren’t enough to earn the ex-Fire homegrown Mihailovic a spot on the 2022 World Cup roster. Djordje is at his best when either the team is built around him, or he’s surrounded by very good players; the fact that the team didn’t run through him at the Gold Cup prevented him from playing to his full potential this summer, but if he does manage to get a look with the A-team in the near future, Djordje will shine once again.
4. Malik Tillman (FC Bayern) – Since making the switch from Germany to the U.S. last summer, Tillman has done little to prove that he should be a part of the first team, but has shown glimpses of talent in the Scottish league. If he can find consistency and move to a stronger league, there is certainly a pathway into the squad.
5. Brian Gutiérrez (Chicago Fire) – The sky is the limit for what Guti can do, and that, of course, applies to the national team as well and not just the Fire. Once he adds consistency in the final third to his game, something that has shown progress in recent matches, he’ll be one of the most dangerous attackers in MLS and could earn a senior national team look within the next 12 months.
Honorable mentions: Paxten Aaronson, Cristian Roldan
1. Christian Pulisic (AC Milan) – A fresh start in Italy is exactly what the USMNT’s starboy needed after a tumultuous four seasons with Chelsea. Pulisic has always played his best soccer for the national team; he’s written into the XI in Sharpie for the next several years, and it’s hard to imagine a world in which he’ll be displaced anytime before the next two World Cups.
2. Tim Weah (Juventus) – Like Pulisic, a move to Serie A should provide a much-needed boost for Weah, and he’ll be looking to translate his Nations League form into locking down a starting job as a right wingback for Juventus. The 23-year-old has always shown glimpses of the talent passed down to him by his famous father and has been a consistent and effective contributor for the USMNT for the last two years.
3. Taylor Booth (Utrecht) – Booth’s breakout season with Utrecht in 2022/23 provided the platform for him to kick off his national team career and win his first international medal, even if he couldn’t get on the field in either Nations League match. Booth is a seriously underrated talent and could carve out a role as a key super sub for the U.S. going forward.
4. Alex Zendejas (Club América) – A lack of end product in the Gold Cup soured the regard to which many USMNT fans feld Zendejas, but the truth is, he’s still a part of the group and may still play an important role as depth. A move overseas from Club América to Europe isn’t off the table, and could push him to improve further and strengthen his USMNT case.
5. Kevin Paredes (Wolfsburg) – The profoundly-talented Paredes has been on the brink of breaking into the senior team for nearly two years, and it is only a matter of time before it happens. Barring more injuries, the winger/wingback should be a part of the A-squad before too long, and could be another impact sub whose technique and dynamism add something different to the U.S. attack.
Honorable mentions: Jordan Morris, Paul Arriola, Cade Cowell
1. Folarin Balogun (Arsenal) – May 16th, 2023, the day Balogun made the switch from England to the United States, will forever be remembered as one of the greatest and most important days in the history of American soccer. A young, deadly striker who just recorded a record-breaking 22 goals in his first full season in Europe’s top five leagues, Balogun will be America’s starting forward for years to come and a significant threat to every opponent they face.
2. Ricardo Pepi (PSV) – The acquisition of Balogun shouldn’t distract USMNT fans from the success of Pepi, who capped off an impressive 2022/23 campaign with a goal against Mexico in the Nations League and a big-money transfer to Dutch giants PSV. The battle for the starting #9 job will not only make Pepi better but will also push Balogun, and it’s fantastic that the USMNT has two elite center forwards emerging simultaneously in a position that has been a weak spot for years.
3. Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas) – Though most of his goals have come against small islands, the “Pirate of the Caribbean” is nonetheless on the brink of entering the USMNT’s top ten all-time scorers. Much of the disrespect Ferreira gets online is unwarranted, and while he’s quite far off from the top two strikers at the moment, he’s still a talented option who represents good depth.
4. Josh Sargent (Norwich) – A strong World Cup performance from Sargent wasn’t enough to keep him front and center, as he hasn’t played for the USMNT since coming off injured in the group stage finale against Iran. Either way, his ability to make an impact off the bench may give him a leg up on Ferreira, and he’s more proven at a higher level than his MLS counterparts.
5. Brandon Vázquez (FC Cincinnati) – Three years ago, Vázquez would have been a godsend for the U.S. striker position, but despite an impressive Gold Cup, a significantly strengthened striker pool means he’s probably on the outside looking in for the A-team. Vázquez’s movement and aerial ability make him a great candidate for someone to be a third striker on a roster if the team is chasing a goal late on, but it’s difficult to imagine that Berhalter would call him up over Ferreira.
Honorable mentions: Daryl Dike, Haji Wright, Niko Gioacchini
Alex Calabrese’s 23-man roster:
Goalkeepers: Ethan Horvath, Gaga Slonina, Matt Turner
Defenders: Cameron Carter-Vickers, Sergiño Dest, Tim Ream, Chris Richards, Antonee Robinson, Miles Robinson, Joe Scally
Midfielders: Brenden Aaronson, Tyler Adams, Johnny Cardoso, Weston McKennie, Yunus Musah, Gio Reyna
Forwards: Folarin Balogun, Taylor Booth, Kevin Paredes, Ricardo Pepi, Christian Pulisic, Josh Sargent, Tim Weah
Gregg Berhalter’s 23-man roster:
Goalkeepers: Ethan Horvath, Sean Johnson, Matt Turner
Defenders: Sergiño Dest, Tim Ream, Bryan Reynolds, Chris Richards, Antonee Robinson, Miles Robinson, Joe Scally, Walker Zimmerman
Midfielders: Brenden Aaronson, Tyler Adams, Luca de la Torre, Weston McKennie, Yunus Musah, Gio Reyna
Forwards: Folarin Balogun, Taylor Booth, Jesús Ferreira, Ricardo Pepi, Christian Pulisic, Tim Weah