Red Bulls defender John Tolkin hopes to make his international debut this week. (USA TODAY Sports)
The U.S. men’s national team will start the 2026 World Cup cycle against Serbia on Wednesday night.
The journey to hosting the world’s biggest sporting event alongside Canada and Mexico6 begins this week as a young U.S.6 roster will look to make its mark with the USMNT alongside several veterans returning from the Americans’ showing at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Kickoff for USA-Serbia from BMO Stadium in Los Angeles is set for 10 p.m. ET on HBO Max, Universo, Peacock and the Telemundo App.
Dating back to 1999, 30 players who have debuted or earned their second cap during the USMNT’s first camp of a calendar year have gone on to make a FIFA World Cup roster. From the USA’s squad at Qatar 2022, nine players earned their first or second cap during a January camp match, including captain Tyler Adams, forward Brenden Aaronson, defenders Walker Zimmerman and Tim Ream and starting goalkeeper Matt Turner. That figure also includes five members of the 100-cap club: Jozy Altidore, DaMarcus Beasley, Carlos Bocanegra, Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan.
The USMNT’s January training camp roster is traditionally filled with rising talents getting their first looks with the senior team and this year’s squad is no different. Eleven players have earned their first USMNT call-up — goalkeeper Roman Celentano, defenders Julian Gressel, Jalen Neal, Sam Rogers and John Tolkin, midfielders Paxten Aaronson, Aidan Morris and Alan Soñora plus forwards Emmanuel Sabbi, Brandon Vazquez and Alejandro Zendejas. In addition, goalkeeper Gaga Slonina and defender DeJuan Jones join the aforementioned 11 in seeking their full international debut against Serbia and Colombia. Five other players have six or fewer USMNT appearances – defender Jonathan Gómez, midfielders Paxton Pomykal and Eryk Williamson plus forwards Cade Cowell and Matthew Hoppe.
The young, uncapped players come with plenty of experience in the U.S. men’s youth national teams program. Last summer, Aaronson, Cowell and Neal helped lead the USA to a third-straight Concacaf U-20 Championship, a berth to the Olympics for the first time since Beijing 2008 and a spot in this summer’s FIFA U-20 World Cup. First-time call-ups Vazquez and Zendejas represented the USA at the 2015 U-17 World Cup, while Sabbi was a part of the U.S. team at the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup.
With the match dates falling outside of the designated international calendar, clubs are not required to release players for national team duty. The January camp typically consists largely of U.S.-based players who are not in season.
The USA will host Colombia in Carson, Calif. on Saturday night.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Roman Celentano (FC Cincinnati; 0/0), Sean Johnson (Unattached; 10/0), Gaga Slonina (Chelsea/ENG; 0/0)
DEFENDERS (8): Jonathan Gómez (Real Sociedad/ESP; 1/0), Julian Gressel (Vancouver Whitecaps/CAN; 0/0), DeJuan Jones (New England Revolution; 0/0), Aaron Long (LAFC; 29/3), Jalen Neal (LA Galaxy; 0/0), Sam Rogers (Rosenborg/NOR; 0/0), John Tolkin (New York Red Bulls; 0/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 37/3)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Paxten Aaronson (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER; 0/0), Kellyn Acosta (LAFC; 55/2), Aidan Morris (Columbus Crew; 0/0), Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas; 1/0), Alan Soñora (Unattached; 0/0), Eryk Williamson (Portland Timbers; 4/0)
FORWARDS (7): Paul Arriola (FC Dallas; 48/10), Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes; 1/0), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; 16/7), Matthew Hoppe (Middlesbrough/ENG; 6/1), Emmanuel Sabbi (Odense/DEN; 0/0), Brandon Vazquez (FC Cincinnati; 0/0), Alejandro Zendejas (Club America/MEX; 0/0)