U.S. men’s World Cup roster reflects ‘the diversity of America’

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DOHA, Qatar – Desmond Armstrong, a defender in the 1990 U.S. Open. Start in Monday’s opener against Wales.

He started rattling off names: Weston McKenney, Taylor Adams, Yunus Musah, Antoine Robinson…the list goes on and on.

It’s a far cry from Armstrong’s national team days, when he and defenseman Jimmy Banks were the only black players not only on the roster but in the elite talent pool.

“I would say the biggest contrast so far is that it’s been lonely,” Armstrong said. “There’s not just one guy like me out there, quote-unquote, carrying the banner for every African-American potential player.”

This year’s 26-man team includes a record 12 black players, an increase of three from 2014 — the last time the United States qualified — and the same number as the 1994, ’98 and 2002 squads combined. (Rosters were capped at 22 players from 1990-1998 and 23 from 2002-2018.)

“It’s no secret that African Americans gravitate toward basketball, gravitate toward American football, gravitate toward baseball, gravitate toward other sports,” McKennie said. “In my area [in Little Elm, Tex.], you rarely saw any African American kids playing soccer. So now to be able to do what we love, and at the same time, have an impact on the game for African Americans, it’s amazing because now they can look at it and say, ‘You know, that could be me… Another sport we can fall in love with.’

Nine additional Black players were in contention for coach Gregg Berhalter’s team prior to the Nov. 9 roster announcement. Four players to make the cut are Hispanic, providing the largest delegation of players of color in the US. it. World Cup history.

“The diversity of this team is the diversity of America,” Berhalter said.

Maurice Edu, a 2010 World Cup midfielder and now a Fox Sports commentator, said he often talks with friends about the possibility of an all-black starting lineup soon, which is “unbelievable to see how far the game has come in terms of reaching .”

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Edu, who is black, emphasized the importance of black role models playing in the World Cup for the United States. For him, it was Eddie Pope, Earnie Stewart and DaMarcus Beasley, among others. The 2010 and ’14 squads featured 17 black players combined, including Tim Howard, Oguchi Onyewu and Jozy Altidore.

“There is still more room for growth, but if the team has success, it just continues the pipeline,” Edu said. “To see players like them, there will be more young black kids focused on the game.”

Armstrong, 58, was born in Washington but moved to Montgomery County, Md., as a child and excelled in the sport at Columbia, a youth soccer hotbed in Howard County. When visiting his grandmother in Northeast DC, neighborhood boys would yell at him, “Yeah, soccer boy, how’s the hockey?”

Armstrong said, laughing, “I was always known as ‘soccer boy’ there. The connotation was a white boys’ sport.”

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The 1990 squad was almost exclusively white players in their early to mid-20s who had passed through traditional development circles and starred for NCAA programs. The makeup of this year’s team is far from that. At full strength, the three-man starting midfield features All Black players: McKennie, Adams and Musah.

The path for McKennie and Adams was through MLS academies in Dallas and New York respectively. Both skipped college to turn pro.

Musah was born in New York to Ghanaian parents, learned the game in Italy and England, and plays for Valencia in Spain’s La Liga. He was eligible to represent four countries.

Florida-born defender Shaq Moore traces family roots to Trinidad and Tobago. Midfielder Kellyn Acosta, from Greater Dallas, is black, Japanese and Puerto Rican. Winger Tim Weah, a native New Yorker, is the son of a Liberian father (former superstar George Weah) and Jamaican mother.

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DeAndre Yedlin, the only current American player with World Cup experience, is a black man with Latvian-Jewish and native blood. Ferreira moved to the United States in 2009 when his father, David, joined FC Dallas and, in 2019, became an American citizen.

Striker Haji Wright, a native of Los Angeles, has Liberian and Ghanaian roots. Robinson and Cameron Carter-Vickers, both defenders, are from England, sons of black American fathers who played soccer at Duke and basketball at LSU, respectively. (Howard Carter was a 1983 first-round draft.)

Current and former black players credit increased outreach and greater access to the game, although soccer’s influence in the United States remains greater in the suburbs than in cities, where, elsewhere in the world, the game pulsates.

At the Aspen Institute’s Project Game Summit in Washington in May, US it. Soccer federation president Cindy Cone said, “A lot of it comes down to how our sport is viewed, and how do we shift the mindset of it being a rich, white kids’ sport to a sport that is actually played.” [everywhere]. As the most diverse country in the world, how do we change the focus to make sure every child feels welcome in our game? “

While the number of black players on the national team has increased, Hispanic representation has stalled, despite Latinos making up almost 20 percent of the U.S. national team. Soccer is the most popular sport in the communities.

The largest Latino contingent in a U.S. it. World Cup squad was five in 1994. This year, it’s striker Jesús Ferreira, forward Gio Reyna, and midfielders Luca de la Torre and Cristian Roldan. However, only Roldan, whose parents emigrated from El Salvador and Guatemala, has roots in Central America. (Roldan’s brother, Alex, represents El Salvador.)

In a mild surprise, striker Ricardo Pepi was not picked for the World Cup squad. A dual national from El Paso, Pepi could have become a hero in the Mexican American community, said ESPN commentator Hérculez Gómez – “any Mexican American can identify with.”

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“To not have that is a bitter pill,” said Gomez, who has Mexican roots and played for the United States in the 2010 World Cup. He also noted that none of the Mexican American players who committed to Mexico made El Tri’s World Cup team either.

Socioeconomic barriers, the US Berhalter noted progress in building a pipeline to the national team, but also asked, “How do we expand [access]Reaching out to underserved communities and giving greater opportunities?

Armstrong, a Hall of Famer, made the effort in the form of a youth program in East Nashville, where children from a variety of backgrounds embraced the game.

“We are in the beginning stages” to get more underrepresented children involved in the game and on a path to youth national teams, he said. “We won’t see the results of this for 20 years. When it happens, it will be like, ‘Okay, now soccer has reached every corner, every inch of America.’

World Cup in Qatar

Your questions, answered: The World Cup kicks off on November 20 in Qatar, about five months later than usual. Here’s everything you need to know about the quadrennial event.

Group leader: The men’s national soccer team, led by coach Gregg Berhalter and star forward Christian Pulisic, qualified for the 2022 World Cup, an improvement on its disastrous and unsuccessful 2018 campaign. Here’s a closer look at how all the teams in each group stack up.

Today’s WorldView: Even as the World Cup is days away from starting, The talk of boycotts is only getting louder. Soccer fan protesters expressed their disdain for Qatar’s autocratic monarchy, including its alleged human rights abuses, suppression of dissent, persecution of LGBTQ people and migration of migrant workers.

The best of the best: More than 800 players, representing 32 countries and six continents, will assemble in Qatar for four weeks of World Cup competition. These players likely promise a breakout tournament or hold the key to their team exceeding expectations.

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