The 2022 FIFA World Cup kicked off on Nov. 20 in Qatar. The World Cup comes around every four years and is one of the most highly anticipated events in all of global sports. The last World Cup, hosted by Russia in 2018, amassed a total of 3.57 billion viewers, including more than one billion people who tuned into the final. It is estimated that five billion viewers will watch the 2022 World Cup Final at the Lusail Stadium in Qatar. For perspective, 99 million people watched the Super Bowl this past year. Over the course of the next month, thirty-two teams will play a total of 64 games in Qatar for the first ever World Cup hosted in the Middle East. This year also marks the first time that the competition will be held at the end of the calendar year, due to the extreme summer heat in Qatar, as opposed to the normal middle of the year.
Although the World Cup has never been more popular, this year’s edition has stirred up controversy from the very beginning. FIFA’s decision to elect Qatar as the host country despite Qatar’s stance on LGBTQ+ rights, the staggering number of migrant workers dying due to poor working conditions, and the extreme heat have all been subjects of controversy. Players have found numerous ways to peacefully protest, such as Germany taking a starting eleven picture with tape over their mouths before their first group stage match. Despite these things, the beloved tournament continues.
For United States fans, this World Cup is especially exciting since the Yanks missed out on World Cup action four years ago in Russia. The United States men’s national team (USMNT) has been to the World Cup ten times out of the total 21 and appeared in eight of the last nine tournaments. The most memorable tournament appearance for the U.S. came in the inaugural World Cup in 1930, where they finished third. Their best finish since then was when they made it to the quarterfinals in 2002. In their most recent World Cup appearance in 2014, the Americans put on a strong showing, finishing second in a difficult group to advance to the elimination stages, where they were knocked out by a strong Belgium side. The Yanks also advanced to the Round of 16 in both the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, setting high expectations for the team coming into Qatar.
The USMNT’s path to the 2022 World Cup was a particularly exciting one for fans. They won the Concacaf Gold Cup in 2021, beating rivals Mexico 1-0 in the final. They also finished third in the World Cup qualifying rounds beneath Canada and Mexico to qualify for the World Cup.
Although there has been a good amount of player turnover from 2014, this year’s roster is also arguably the most talented the U.S. has produced to date, so missing out on the elimination stages would have been a significant disappointment. A ton of diverse and quality players have been included in the 26-man squad for the U.S., with six players coming from the Premier League in England and fourteen total from the world’s top five leagues. (See the breakdown of the 26-man roster below.)
Despite the obvious talent, one challenge going into the tournament was the U.S. team’s relative youth. The team features the second-youngest World Cup roster at the tournament, with an average age of only 25 years and 175 days. This was by choice, as young talent has been increasingly emerging out of the United States. From the likes of Christian Pulisic to Weston McKennie, the USMNT’s squad is one of undeniable quality and growth. Team captain Tyler Adams looks to take his squad to their first quarterfinal in two decades.
The USMNT was put into a tough group with England, Wales, and Iran—averaging a FIFA ranking of 15, the highest of any group at the tournament. The USMNT played Wales first, and despite winning for most of the game, the Americans tied 1-1 due to a late penalty call. They also had a convincing 0-0 tie against an incredibly good England side (ranked no. 5 in the world), in the second group stage match. This draw makes the U.S. unbeaten against England in every World Cup match the two sides have played against each other in, with the most recent in 2010 where they tied 1-1. In their last match of the group stage, the U.S. needed a win against Iran in order to advance, and beat them 1-0 thanks to a spectacular play and a beautiful finish by Pulisic in the first half. They finished the group stage in second place, behind England, with five points. The Yanks advanced to the round of 16 and will face the Netherlands in Ar-Rayyan, Qatar on Dec. 3 at 10 am ET. The winner will play the winner of Argentina versus Australia on Dec. 9 at 2 pm ET. With both starters, Christian Pulisic and Josh Sargent potentially out with injuries, it will definitely be a tough knockout round match for the squad.
Ethan Horvath (Luton Town/ENG – 8/0 – Highlands Ranch, Colo.)
Sean Johnson (New York City FC – 10/0 – Lilburn, Ga.)
Matt Turner (Arsenal/ENG – 20/0 – Park Ridge, N.J.)
Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic – 11/0 – Southend-on-Sea, England)
Sergiño Dest (AC Milan – 19/2 – Almere, Netherlands)
Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls – 29/3 – Oak Hills, Calif.)
Shaq Moore (Nashville SC – 15/1 – Powder Springs, Ga.)
Tim Ream (Fulham – 46/1 – St. Louis, Mo.)
Antonee Robinson (Fulham – 29/2 – Liverpool, England)
Joe Scally (Borussia Mönchengladbach – 3/0 – Lake Grove, N.Y.)
DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami CF – 75/0 – Seattle, Wash.)
Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC – 33/3 – Lawrenceville, Ga.)
Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United – 24/6 – Medford, N.J.)
Kellyn Acosta (LAFC – 53/2 – Plano, Texas)
Tyler Adams (Captain) (Leeds United – 32/1 – Wappingers Falls, N.Y.)
Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo – 12/0 – San Diego, Calif.)
Weston McKennie (Juventus – 37/9 – Little Elm, Texas)
Yunus Musah (Valencia – 19/0 – London, England)
Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC – 32/0 – Pico Rivera, Calif.)
Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas – 15/7 – McKinney, Texas)
Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders – 49/11 – Mercer Island, Wash.)
Christian Pulisic (Chelsea – 52/21 – Hershey, Pa.)
Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund – 14/4 – Bedford, N.Y.)
Josh Sargent (Norwich City – 20/5 – O’Fallon, Mo.)
Tim Weah (Lille – 25/3 – Rosedale, N.Y.)
Haji Wright (Antalyaspor – 3/1 – Los Angeles, Calif.)