After an eight year absence, the U.S. Men’s National Team returned to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and performed admirably.
Boasting one of the youngest squads in the tournament, with an average age of 25, the USMNT advanced through the group stage and to the Round of 16 before being eliminated by the Netherlands, 3-1.
The hope moving forward is this collection of young talent comes into its own in the next four years and excels in the 2026 World Cup, which will conveniently take place here in the states.
With that in mind, the Americans — led by Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Gio Reyna — hosted El Salvador in a Nations League match in Orlando, Florida. Interim manager Anthony Hudson utilized a lineup that leaned heavily on the Americans’ most recent World Cup experience, but it was striker Ricardo Pepi who proved to be the difference maker. The talented 20-year-old, who didn’t make manager Gregg Berhalter’s 26-man World Cup squad, scored two minutes after entering the match against El Salvador to spark a 1-0 victory for the USMNT.
From midfield, McKennie initiated the play with a beautifully crafted through ball perfectly placed in the path of Pepi, who calmly held off the defender and chipped the ball over the helpless El Salvador goalie, Mario González, in the 62nd minute for his third goal in two games for the U.S.
With the win, the USMNT advances to the CONCACAF Nations League semifinals in Las Vegas this June, where they attempt to defend their title after defeating Mexico in the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League final 3-2 in 2021.