USMNT begins 2026 World Cup cycle with Serbia friendly

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Los Angeles – The U.S. World Cup adventure in Qatar ended nearly eight weeks ago. Since then, there has been enough extraneous testimony and controversy to fill eight years.

But nothing will stand in the way of a new four-year cycle, so come Wednesday night with an assistant coach in charge, no general manager, a wave of rookies in uniforms and no one quite sure what direction the program will take. , 2023 US Men’s Soccer Team started with a friendly match against Serbia.

It was supposed to be a low-key affair, as these winter gatherings almost always are, with top players busy with club duties in Europe and the week-long camp’s main focus being on integrating prospects. And yet, given the events of the past two months, as well as some intriguing new storylines, it’s almost impossible to look away.

Bottom line: Gregg Berhalter’s contract as coach is up, and while the U.S. Soccer Federation said he continues to fight for a new deal, that looks less likely than it did after he led the Americans to the World Cup round of 16.

Berhalter’s feud with the Reyna clan, a well-known U.S. soccer family, became public. The flap was further reinforced by Berhalter, who in what he thought was an off-the-record speech, outlined the reasons why the immensely talented Gio Reyna played little in the World Cup (without naming the player). Reyna’s parents believed it should have stayed with the team, and his mother, Danielle, later told USSF that Berhalter kicked his future wife when they were students at the University of North Carolina.

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“When all this happened, it was like a shame, a sadness, because all the attention was gone [the World Cup]all the good work has been diverted,” World Cup assistant Anthony Hudson, who hosts the show this week, said on Tuesday.

A nasty feud between two US soccer families has come to light

Meanwhile, the oft-injured Reyna, 20, returned to the club with Germany’s Borussia Dortmund and has been in sensational form. He has come off the bench to score game-winning goals in each of the last two games, hours before Team USA’s opener on Wednesday.

The US soap opera didn’t end there: Brian McBride, the Hall of Famer who was named CEO three years ago, was fired. This happened at least a week ago, although the USSF has remained mum. USSF athletic director Earnie Stewart, a World Cup teammate of McBride, Berhalter and Claudio Reyna, Gio’s father, apparently made the decision. Stewart, one person close to the situation said, may end up running the team himself.

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The players in camp went about their business this week. Many are too new to the program to feel the effects of off-field turbulence. While those issues remain unresolved, the roster is far more intriguing than the typical winter camp, which features mostly MLS preseason players.

Paul Arriola was caught up in the World Cup. That’s why he returned to the USMNT.

Hudson has received clearance from foreign clubs to bring in 18-year-old goalkeeper Gaga Slonin (Chelsea), 19-year-old midfielder Paxten Aaronson (Eintracht Frankfurt) and forward Alejandro Zendejas (Mexico’s Club América), a Texan eligible. USA or Mexico.

Hudson said it was “amazing” that Club América allowed Zendaya to leave between league games. (He is available for Team USA on Wednesday, but not Saturday against Colombia.)

As with most things in US men’s soccer these days, Zendej’s situation is uncomfortable, though not because the USSF has done anything wrong. He represented the US and Mexico, but since Zendaya was linked to the US program for participation in the 2015 in the international youth championship, FIFA fined the Mexican federation and forced it to forfeit several matches.

Zendaya, who on February 7 turning 25, could still change his affiliation with Mexico, but having him here is good for the US program. Even so, he was noncommittal on Tuesday about repeated questions about his future.

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USMNT opportunity is finally knocking for German-born Julian Gressel

Who would end up coaching the United States in preparation for 2026? for the World Cup on home turf, will undoubtedly appreciate Zendaya in red, white and blue. From 2020 In the summer, he scored 24 goals for Liga MX club Necaxa, then Club América, one of Mexico’s top teams.

Heading into Wednesday’s game, Zendaya was among 13 players looking to make their U.S. senior debut. Among them were FC Cincinnati’s Brandon Vazquez, whose goal-scoring exploits in MLS were too late to be considered for the World Cup, and Argentine-American forward Alan Soñora.

It was also the first for the 41-year-old British-American Hudson, who has coached Bahrain, New Zealand, the Colorado Rapids and the US Under-20s. If Berhalter isn’t re-signed, Hudson would likely move on.

“I was asked to do this job, [and] it comes in very strange circumstances, very difficult circumstances,” he said. “Shame on everyone involved: the players, the staff, Gregg. Everyone is affected by it. It’s not a nice situation.”

A small earthquake shook Southern California early Wednesday. Given the presence of Team USA, it seemed fitting.

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