It’s clear by interim United States men’s national team head coach B.J. Callaghan’s 23-man roster for this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup that winning the tournament isn’t the only priority. How else do you explain giving players like Christian Pulisic a pass? It’s not a break as he barely played at Chelsea for the last three months and a possible transfer to Serie A wouldn’t be stopped by international responsibilities. A lack of stardom combined with keeping the Yanks as fresh as possible from two matches in the Nations League (like 180 minutes will tax your body that hard) is at the forefront of this roster selection. There is also the blaring siren of trying to expand the roster pool for the 2026 World Cup, even though we have no idea who will be leading the Americans onto home soil for the global extravaganza.
That’s the mish-mosh regurgitation the 23 men given a yes for the Gold Cup will come together under. It’s much of the same approach that the USMNT used for the 2021 Gold Cup, which it won and helped elevate Matt Turner, and Miles Robinson to starting positions for the team when the final round of World Cup qualifying began in Sept. 2021. Turner ended up being GK No. 1 and didn’t miss a minute of the 2022 World Cup. Robinson would’ve been a lock for the squad in Qatar before he ruptured his Achilles tendon last May and was out the rest of the year. Both Turner and Robinson are among Callaghan’s selections. The goalkeeping trio should garner no complaints with Sean Johnson and Gabriel Slonina, who just helped the US under-20’s to a World Cup quarterfinal, joining Turner for the tournament.
The proving ground of the Gold Cup is evident for the second straight tournament as the prize for winning the tournament and advancing to the Confederations Cup no longer exists. Nearly half the players brought into the squad have three caps or less for the Yanks, but every single player has dressed for the USMNT at least once. Another huge opportunity exists for the six dual-nationals called into the squad, each of whom have another choice based on their heritage of a team that also made the 2022 World Cup. By being called by the United States in for a major tournament, their commitment to the Yanks shouldn’t come into question, but by appearing for the USMNT in a CONCACAF tournament, their futures only belong to the United States. Half of the dual-nationals have ties to other North American teams in Aidan Morris (Canada), as well as Brandon Vazquez and Cade Cowell (Mexico). Alan Soñora is eligible to join World Cup winners Argentina, while Slonina and Julian Gressel have ties to European teams in Poland, and Germany respectively.
It’d be a shock to see the other 2026 World Cup hosts in Mexico and Canada put their A-squads out there for the Gold Cup too, as Mexico also didn’t for the 2021 tournament. The expectation is still for the USMNT to win the whole damn thing, but it’s obvious by Callaghan’s selections that’s far from the only goal, which is still strange for a major tournament. It’s just the next weird step for the team on the way to hosting the World Cup in three years.