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It's officially time to look forward to the Copa America. Taking place in the United States between CONMEBOL teams and six Concacaf teams, it will be a time for the USMNT to prove themselves against top opposition ahead of the 2026 World Cup. Testing both manager Gregg Berhalter's tactical chops as well as the player pool's ability to dig deep.

Playing time concerns could still be an issue but if the Conacaf Nations League taught anything it's that sometimes, playing time can be less important than talent. It's something that must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis but the more players getting regular action, the better. Let's take a look at predicting the roster ahead of the summer:

USMNT roster locks

Locks for Copa America are few and far between as playing time concerns run deep with members of the national team currently. There will be some tough decisions but the pure core of the team is close to set.

  • Matt Turner (Goalkeeper)
  • Sergino Dest (Defender)
  • Weston McKennie (Midfielder)
  • Christian Pulisic (Forward)
  • Gio Reyna (Forward)
  • Tyler Adams (Midfielder)
  • Antonee Robinson (Defender)
  • Yunus Musah (Midfielder)
  • Folarin Balogun (Forward)

Dropping Brenden Aaronson from the locks feels harsh, but when he only made the Nations League roster as an injury replacement, there's a chance that he may not make this one too. Tim Weah also wasn't effective during the Nations League and while I don't have either missing out on the squad as a whole, both are going to be up against it if they don't play more for their clubs down the stretch of the season. Looking at these locks, having four players who aren't playing regularly doesn't feel great but three are irreplaceable and Matt Turner is still going to make the trip no matter what happens at this rate. 

We're at a weird crossroads for the USMNT as so many players need a change in their playing situations, but also, it's a risk to do that ahead of an important summer tournament. On the bright side, players like Christian Pulisic and Antonee Robinson are in the form of their lives, but others on the squad will need to match them to have a chance at toppling teams like Uruguay and Brazil.

On the bubble

  • Luca De La Torre (Midfielder): Close to a lock, De La Torre only remains in bubble territory because of the hope that a midfielder will surpass him in the future because the depth of the player pool has gotten better. In and out of the lineup for Celta Vigo, De La Torre has created a role for himself but there's a long way to go before he's more than an impact sub for the national team.
  • Miles Robinson (Defender): After moving to FC Cincinnati, Robinson is working on getting back to his best, but that also could cap his ceiling for the national team. If players like Mark McKenzie and Chris Richards can step up, Robinson will have a hard time getting into the starting XI.
  • Malik Tillman (Midfielder): The idea of Tillman is becoming better than the product of Tillman, as while he has performed at PSV, he is having a hard time making that translate to the national team. Spaces are tighter at the international level than in the Netherlands and Tillman needs to become more comfortable laying the ball off to teammates instead of going directly for goal himself. 
  • Josh Sargent (Forward): In a welcome change for this team, almost every forward behind Folarin Balogun is in good form with their club and that will make things interesting for this Copa America squad. While Sargent missed out on Nations League due to injury, Haji Wright stepped up during his absence scoring himself. It's a good problem to have if you're Gregg Berhalter, and Sargent will need to keep up the good form because taking four nines seems like one too many for Copa America.
  • Ethan Horvath (Keeper): Horvath is back to playing regular soccer at Cardiff City, which also means that he'll be back in contention for the USMNT. With Matt Turner not playing for Nottingham Forest, any dip in form could lead to Horvath getting the starts between the sticks.
  • Ricardo Pepi (Forward): While I don't want to say that Pepi is being squeezed out of the squad, striker is crowded and between him and Josh Sargent, someone is going to miss out for Copa America. While Pepi has been used on the wing, he's not as effective there, unlike Haji Wright which could make him a victim of the roster squeeze yet again.
  • Joe Scally (Defender): While Scally has yet to show much with the national team, he's a member of the squad until another right back emerges. Both wide defensive positions are among the weakest for the USMNT, but if Richards is going to be a starting center back, someone else has to fill in at right back for the team in a pinch, and for now, that's Scally.
  • Haji Wright (Forward): Wright came out of nowhere to crash the World Cup squad and he's rising yet again when it matters to push his way into the Copa America squad as well. Adding a new position to his box of tools, all Wright has done is continue to do things to force Berhalter's hand and it has been working.
  • Cameron Carter-Vickers (Defender): Carter-Vickers is someone who needs a consistent chances to play for the USMNT. It may not come this summer as Copa America is too important to test out new things but he's another depth option who is running out of chances to show what they can do.
  • Johnny Cardoso (Midfielder): After his move to Real Betis, Cardoso has been shining. Able to provide a more progressive option in midfield, he is officially a squad member but Cardoso is the fourth choice midfielder when all options are healthy, possibly fifth choice if Reyna is used deeper in midfield. 
  • Drake Callender (Goalkeeper): A consistent performer for Inter Miami, Callender's shot stopping has been next level. There are areas to iron out, like Callender's cross claiming, but as a second or third keeper, there are worse options that Berhalter could have in the squad. 
  • Mark McKenzie (Defender): Performing  the best that he can in Belgium, McKenzie could be close to a move to a bigger club in the summer, but first, he'll need to break into the starting XI for the USMNT. Since he's left footed, his direct competition is Tim Ream but the consistency of the Fulham man has made him hard to unseat. Eventually, that's a risk that will need to be taken as Ream isn't getting any younger.
  • Kris Lund (Defender): We've gone over the struggle for competent outside backs in the squad and recruiting a dual national like Lund is something that could help with that. While he won't overtake Robinson, Lund's presence means that Dest doesn't need to be the starting right back and the backup left back.
  • Tim Ream (Defender): Every minute that Ream spends starign for the USMNT is a minute not spent finding out the 2026 starter. It's a fine balance as while you want to win these games, but finding the 2026 starter is also important. Ream is already 36 so while technically he could pull a Pepe and play until 40, that's not something Berhalter should rely on.
  • Jesus Ferriera (Forward): Although it feels like the forward logjam should suqeeze Ferriera out of the squad, that's where his creativity offers something different to the squad. Able to play as a point striker or alongside another forward, Ferriera will have every chance to prove that he belongs in the team.
  • Chris Richards (Defender): Now a starter for Crystal Palace, Richards is also showing why he's one of the most talented defenders in the player pool for the USMNT. As long as he can stay healthy, Richards will quickly move into the locks section of these predctions. 

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2026 roster projection 

Goalkeepers (3): Drake Callender (Inter Miami), Matt Turner (Nottingham Forest), Ethan Horvath (Cardiff City).

Defenders (9): Sergino Dest (PSV), Antonee Robinson (Fulham), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), Chris Richards (Crystal Palace), Mark McKenzie (Genk), Tim Ream (Fulham), Joe Scally (Borussia Monchengladbach), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic), Kris Lund (Palermo).

Midfielders (7): Weston McKennie (Juventus), Tyler Adams (Bournemouth), Yunus Musah (Milan), Brenden Aaronson (Union Berlin), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo), Malik Tillman (PSV); Johnny Cardoso (Real Betis).

Forwards (9): Christian Pulisic (Milan), Gio Reyna (Nottingham Forest), Forlarin Balogun (Monaco), Ricardo Pepi (PSV), Tim Weah (Juventus), Folarin Balogun (Reims), Josh Sargent (Norwich City), Jesus Ferriera (FC Dallas), Haji Wright (Coventry City).