The 2022 FIFA World Cup is on the horizon and the tournament brings a number of firsts. In addition to the event marking the first instance in its history of being played in the winter, it will also mark the return of the USA soccer team to the tournament. After missing out on the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the USMNT qualified for this year’s competition, with coach Gregg Berhalter at the helm.
Berhalter will lead the US team in their first World Cup in eight years after being hired back in December 2018. He will also achieve a milestone in being the first manager of the US side to have also played for the national team at a World Cup. Berhalter logged 358 appearances and 22 goals over his professional career, including stops with Crystal Palace of the English First Division at the time, as well with the LA Galaxy of MLS. His international career includes roles in representing the national team at both the 2002 and 2006 World Cups.
He has experience both in the US and overseas as a manager. Berhalter made history as the first US manager to manage a professional team in Europe. In addition to being hired by Hammarby IF in Sweden, he has coached as an assistant for the Galaxy as well as managed Columbus Crew SC for five seasons.
The expectations placed on Berhalter and the USMNT are not solely predicated on redeeming themselves from the underwhelming performance of the past few years. The roster that he has put together speaks to Berhalter’s philosophy around the competition he expects to face in Qatar. Leaving the likes of Zach Steffen and Ricardo Pepi off the roster and opting for rotational players such as Haji Wright and Tim Ream signal a new strategy with Berhalter at the helm.
As he said himself, there’s a difference between playing in CONCACAF and the World Cup, but the end results will surely point back to him and specifically the personnel decisions. The USMNT have advanced to the knockout stage in their last two World Cup appearances, and it’s hard to argue for lower expectations. This roster is undoubtedly younger compared to recent ones, but being an aggressive and high-pressing team is exactly what has many excited for this group of players.
But a lackluster finish and underwhelming performance could mean Berhalter’s tenure as manager of the USMNT ends sooner rather than later. He signed a four-year contract back in late 2018 that expires after the winter tournament. Despite his success in leading the US team to qualification, it’s not far-fetched to assume that his future hinges on how well the team performs in Qatar.