USMNT begins 2026 World Cup cycle with Serbia friendly

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LOS ANGELES – The U.S. World Championships in Qatar ended almost eight weeks ago. Since then, there have been eight years of feuds and strange performances.

Still, nothing stands in the way of a new four-year cycle, so Wednesday night, without an assistant coach or general manager and a wave of newcomers in uniform, no one knows where the program is headed. , the US men’s national soccer team kicks off its 2023 campaign with a friendly against Serbia.

These winter gatherings come at a time when Europe’s best players are locked into club duties and the focus of the week-long camp is to consolidate prospects. However, given the events of the past two months, as well as some interesting new developments, it is almost impossible.

To recap: Gregg Berhalter’s contract as coach is up and the U.S. Soccer Association says he’s in the running for a new deal, but that seems unlikely compared to the time he led the Americans to the last 16 of the World Cup.

Berhalter’s rift with Reyna, a prominent US soccer family, has been publicized. In his speech, Berhalter mentioned the reasons why the incredibly talented Gio Reina did not play much in the World Cup (without mentioning the name of the player). Reyna’s parents thought it should be on the team, and Berhalter told USSF that his mother, Danielle, kicked his future wife while a student at the University of North Carolina.

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“When all this happened, it was the same, it was embarrassing and sad because all the attention was taken away. [the World Cup]”All the good work has gone the other way,” assistant Anthony Hudson, who is hosting the World Cup this week, said on Tuesday.

An ugly rift between two US soccer families has become public

Meanwhile, the oft-injured 20-year-old Reina made a sensational return to Germany’s Borussia Dortmund. He has come off the bench in each of the last two games and scored the game-winning goal, which came just hours before Team USA started on Wednesday.

The US soap opera didn’t end there: Hall of Famer Brian McBride, who was named general manager three years ago, was let go. Although this happened at least a week ago, the USSF has remained mum. USSF athletic director Ernie Stewart appears to have made the decision for the USA’s World Cup teammates McBride, Berhalter and Gio’s father, Claudio Reyna. Stewart, one person close to the situation, said the team might take matters into their own hands.

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This week the players in camp got down to business. Most are too new to the program to feel the impact of the off-field turmoil. Those issues remain unresolved, but the roster is much more interesting than the typical winter camp that typically features players in the MLS preseason.

Paul Arriola was a no-go for the World Cup. Here’s why he returned to the USMNT.

Hudson has received permission from overseas clubs to bring 18-year-old goalkeeper Gaga Slonina (Chelsea), 19-year-old midfielder Paxten Aaronson (Eintracht Frankfurt) and forward Alejandro Zendejas (Mexico American Club) to represent Texas. USA or Mexico.

Hudson said it was “fantastic” that Club America allowed Zendejast to go between league games. (He will be available for Team USA on Wednesday, but not against Colombia on Saturday.)

As with most things in US men’s soccer these days, the Zendejas situation is in disarray, but the USSF has done nothing wrong. He has represented both the United States and Mexico, but Zendejas was part of the US program at the 2015 International Youth Championship, forcing FIFA to fine the Mexican federation and forfeit several matches.

Zendejas, who turns 25 on Feb. 7, may switch citizenships in Mexico, but his presence here bodes well for the U.S. program. However, he did not answer multiple questions about his future on Tuesday.

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Whoever comes home as the USA coach for the 2026 World Cup will surely appreciate Zendejas in the red, white and blue. Since the summer of 2020, he has scored 24 goals in Liga MX for Necasa and then for Club America, one of Mexico’s biggest clubs.

Zendejas is among 13 players looking to make their senior U.S. debuts in Wednesday’s game. Among them were FC Cincinnati’s Brandon Vazquez, whose MLS goals came too late to be discussed at the World Cup, and Argentinian-American forward Alan Sonora.

It was a first for Hudson, a 41-year-old Briton who has coached Bahrain, New Zealand, Colorado Rapids and the US Under-20 national team. If Berhalter doesn’t re-sign, Hudson will likely move on.

“I was asked to do this work. [and] It comes in a very strange, very difficult situation,” he said. “It’s a shame for everyone involved, the players, the staff, Gregg. Everyone is affected. It’s not a good situation.”

A small earthquake hit Southern California early Wednesday. With Team USA, it seemed fitting.

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