Whom will U.S. national team coach
Gregg Berhalter call up for the November window that will feature at least one match -- Nov. 12 against Wales in Swansea -- during the team's first gathering in more than 10 months?
Berhalter is likely to take a team of mostly European-based players.
MLS will begin its playoffs after the November window and the league's quarantine protocols require any players who travel aboard isolate for 10 days after their return. With that in mind, it's likely Berhalter will only consider players from MLS teams whose league seasons have ended.
As an example, the LA Galaxy is in last place in the Western Conference, and if it doesn't make the playoffs, that might prompt Berhalter to call up Sebastian Lletget, who has played nine games in 2019-20 and provides experience in midfield, where the USA might be short-handed. (Teammate Julian Araujo, who attended the January camp and is also eligible for the U-23s and U-20s in 2021, is a possibility at right back, though there's plenty of depth at that position.)
The core of the national team is the quintet of young stars at some of Europe's most prestigious clubs: Christian Pulisic at Chelsea, Sergino Dest at Barcelona, Tyler Adams at RB Leipzig, Weston McKennie at Juventus and Gio Reyna at Borussia Dortmund.
Reyna has never been called up to the national team, and the other four have never played together.
Pulisic, McKennie and Dest have played together once -- they all started in the 3-0 loss to Mexico in September 2019.
Pulisic, McKennie and Adams were residents together on the U.S. U-17 national team in Bradenton, Florida, but have been on the field together on the senior national team twice in the second half of the 3-0 loss at England in November 2018 and as starters in the 1-0 win over Ecuador in March 2019.
Injuries could keep them apart again. Adams suffered a knee injury last week in training. The extent of the damage and the length of the recovery time aren't known, but he is out of RB Leipzig's UEFA Champions League game against Manchester United on Wednesday.
Here's a squad of 23 players whom Berhalter might pick, but it assumes everyone is healthy. In parentheses is each player's birth year. It underscores the youth moving up the ranks.
Seventeen of the 23 players -- all but the three goalkeepers and three of the center backs -- were born in 1997 or later, making them eligible as U-23 players for the 2021 Olympics. Three are eligible for the 2021 Under-20 World Cup and 2024 Olympics as well.
*Josh Cohen (1992), Maccabi Haifa (Israel)
Ethan Horvath (1995), Club Brugge (Belgium)
Zack Steffen (1995), Man. City (England)
Steffen and Horvath are the only players with international experience and both are usually backups. Cohen has started for Maccabi Haifa since moving from the USA's Sacramento Republic FC. That's basically it these days for first-team goalkeepers in Europe.
Reggie Cannon (1998), Boavista (Portugal)
Sergino Dest (2000), Barcelona (Spain)
Antonee Robinson (1997), Fulham (England)
Berhalter's first decision will be whether Dest starts on the right or left side -- he had already done both at Barcelona.
Robinson has not gotten a look at left back since a poor showing in the USA's 1-0 loss to Jamaica before the 2019 Gold Cup, but he has recently broken into the starting lineup alongside Tim Ream at Fulham, albeit the Premier League's worst team.
DeAndre Yedlin is one of the most experienced players in the mix, but he has yet to play a Premier League game and only dressed once this season for Newcastle United, where he is in the last season of his contract.
John Brooks (1993), Wolfsburg (Germany)
Matt Miazga (1995), Anderlecht (Belgium)
Erik Palmer-Brown (1997), Austria Wien (Austria)
Tim Ream (1987), Fulham (England)
*Chris Richards (2000), Bayern Munich (Germany)
Instead of a fourth outside back, Berhalter could call in five center backs. (Ream and Richards can also play on the outside if necessary.) Palmer-Brown was penciled in to start in Olympic qualifying. Richards might have also started if Bayern had released him.
Tyler Adams (1999), RB Leipzig (Germany)
*Johnny (2001), Internacional (Brazil)
Weston McKennie (1998), Juventus (Italy)
*Richie Ledezma (2000), PSV (Netherlands)
Johnny, whom Berhalter hoped to call up in March before the pandemic forced the cancellation of friendlies against Wales and the Netherlands, was starting for Internacional before he was injured. He hasn't played since Sept. 20. If Adams and Johnny aren't available, that will create problems for Berhalter in central midfield.
One option would be to bring in Lletget if the Galaxy doesn't make the playoffs. Other options: Julian Green, whom Berhalter has yet to call up, or Duane Holmes, who has been in and out of the lineup at Derby County, which is struggling in the Championship. The same goes for Chris Durkin at Sint-Truiden since the Belgian club bought his contract from D.C. United. (Alfredo Morales, who played three games for Berhalter in 2019, has been injured at Fortuna Duesseldorf, now in the 2. Bundesliga, and hasn't played since opening day.)
Younger prospects Sergio Mendez (Jong Ajax) and Bryang Kayo (Wolfsburg II) are playing on second teams, like Ledezma at Jong PSV. From MLS, Frankie Amaya might be considered if FC Cincinnati doesn't make the playoffs.
Uly Llanez (2001), Heerenveen (Netherlands)
Christian Pulisic (1998), Chelsea (England)
*Gio Reyna (2002), Borussia Dortmund (Germany)
Tim Weah (2000), Lille (France)
Berhalter's choices will be, in part, dictated by how he sees Reyna's role. The 17-year-old usually plays as part of a three-player attack at Dortmund, though he could be pushed back in the U.S. midfield.
There are plenty of other options on the wing: Konrad de la Fuente, on the Barcelona first team but playing with Barca B on the weekend, or Emmanuel Sabbi, who moved to OB in Denmark. Tyler Boyd's problem is that Besiktas did not register him for the Turkish league's fall season and he has not found a new club -- even on loan -- in the interim.
*Nicholas Gioacchini (2000), Caen (France)
Josh Sargent (2000), Werder Bremen (Germany)
*Sebastian Soto (2000), Telstar (Netherlands)
*Haji Wright (1998), SonderjyskE (Denmark)
Again, lots of young options though only Sargent has been capped. Wright's career appeared to at a crossroads after four years in Europe, but he has been on fire since his move to Denmark, climbing to the top of scoring charts with the Superliga's top team. Gioacchini (out on Saturday because he tested positive for COVID-19) is another player Berhalter wanted to see in March.
Another forward on fire: 29-year-old Aron Johansson in Sweden, though it's been more than five years since he played for the USA.