Gregg Berhalter is focused on qualifying the USMNT for the World Cup. (Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
Here are my 20 national soccer personalities to watch this year.
- Gregg Berhalter
Quite simply, can the U.S. men’s national team coach direct the Americans into the 2022 Qatar World Cup? If he can’t it will be devastating and the Americans will miss the competition for two consecutive cycles for the first time since 1982 and 1986.
Christian Pulisic (Keith Furman/FrontRowSoccer Photo)
- Christian Pulisic
Can the 23-year-old midfielder-forward stay healthy and even when healthy, play regularly for Chelsea so he will be in top for for the USA when World Cup qualifying rolls around later this month and in March?
- Marla Messing
Will the National Women’s Soccer League interim CEO have the league eliminate interim from her title as she and the league try to get things back on track from some horrible coaching scandals in 2021?
- Vlatko Andonovski
How many news faces will he add to the U.S. women’s national team as it tries to qualify for the 2023 Women’s World Cup in New Zealand and Australia? Winning a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics was considered to be an underachieving accomplishment for a squad that has been defined by international championship and gold medals.
- Ricardo Pepi
Can newly signed forward with FC Augsburg find playing time there to keep his form for the national team? Heaven knows the USMNT needs a consistent No. 9 and Pepi has shown loaded of promise.
- Tyler Adams
Can RB Leipzig keep Adams in bubble wrap, so he won’t get injured? He is one of the most important, if not the most important midfielder on the USMNT with his transition game.
- Gio Reyna
When will the Borussia Dortmund teenager be able to get back into full form to be a force for club and country? He hasn’t played since injuring his hamstring in September. The U.S. needs all hands and feet on deck in World Cup qualifying.
- Tim Weah
One of fine revelations during the USMNT’s November qualifying run, can the Lille midfielder-forward stay healthy and find playing time with the French Ligue 1 team?
Ashley Hatch (Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports)
- Ashley Hatch
Can the Washington Spirit forward, who led the NWSL in scoring, turn into a dominant international goal-scorer? Remember, she scored a pair of early goals during the squad’s final two matches of 2021 in Australia.
- Aaron Long
Can the Red Bulls center back regain his form for club and country after his Achilles injury? He made the national and local lists. You can never have enough depth or healthy center backs.
Don Garber (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
- Don Garber
How many more teams does the MLS commissioner and the league’s board of governors want to add? Right now, it is at 28 teams, with St. Louis joining the fray in 2023.
Lindsay Horan (USA TODAY Sports)
- Lindsay Horan
After Carli Lloyd bequeathed the No. 10 jersey to the veteran midfielder, can she live up to its reputation (she was the 2021 U.S. Soccer female player of the year) as a leader on the and off the field and help the team qualify for the 2023 Women’s World Cup?
- Julie Ertz
Can the USWNT midfielder stay away from injuries and enter qualifying this summer in peak condition? Like Adams, her ability as a ball winner if vital to the team’s success.
- Zack Steffen
Two questions: Will Steffen remain with Manchester City as a backup goalkeeper or find a high-profile team where he be the No. 1 man? And will he remain the USMNT’s top keeper in its final six WCQers.
- Alyssa Naeher
Can the Chicago Red Stars goalkeeper come back from the knee injury she suffered during the Tokyo Olympics and become a force in the net as the USA tries to qualify for the 2023 Women’s World Cup?
Megan Rapinoe (Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)
- Megan Rapinoe
How much magic and gas does Rapinoe have in her tank? The Golden Ball and Golden Boot winner at the 2019 Women’s World Cup, might be relegated to a part-time role on the national team if she can’t produce consistently.
- Weston McKennie
Can the Juventus midfielder continue to play well on both sides of the ball for club and country, especially during WCQ? He is the USMNT’s best all-around midfielder.
- Catarina Macario
Can the 22-year-old Lyon midfielder and Brazilian, who became the first naturalized citizen in USWNT history last Jan. 18, become a midfield force for the squad? Heaven knows it needs fresh blood on the attacking side.
- Mystery woman
A mystery woman? Will someone we haven’t seen or talked about become a national team player who can make an impact?
- Alphonso Davies
What’s this? A Canadian on the list? Before you say I’m nuts, let me explain. With games against Costa Rica and Panama in March, the USA might need its neighbors to the north to extract points from those two Concacaf foes. We don’t know what position the USMNT will be in, in regard to World Cup qualification. Remember, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. And if the Americans finish second to Canada in the Octagonal, well, who cares? Getting to the dance is the main goal.