Why Berhalter's USMNT aims for World Cup don't match reality - ESPN

2023-09-06 14:00:45  • 9 mins

Gregg Berhalter led the USMNT to a round-of-16 exit at the 2022 World Cup, but he says now he wants to bring the U.S. team to its highest finish at the 2026 World Cup. James Williamson/AMA/Getty Images

In Gregg Berhalter's first big interview since he was rehired as U.S. men's national team manager, he put down a lofty marker for the 2026 World Cup. His goal, he told Vanity Fair, "is for us to go to a round that no U.S. team has ever gone to."

Wishing for it is one thing, but getting there will be a massive undertaking.

Technically, reaching a new frontier at the World Cup would mean reaching the final, given that the U.S. made it to the semifinals of the inaugural edition of the tournament in 1930, where it was routed by Argentina 6-1. If one limits his statement to the modern era -- loosely defined as starting in 1990, when the U.S. men qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 40 years -- that means reaching the semifinals.

For the sake of argument, let's say that was what Berhalter meant, and reaching the semifinals is certainly possible for this U.S. team. It's arguably as talented a group as the USMNT has ever had, and it's not unheard of for a wild card to reach the semifinals of a World Cup. Turkey and South Korea did it in 2002. Morocco did it last December in Qatar. The U.S. will also benefit in 2026 from what will undoubtedly be some vociferous home support at American stadiums.

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