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March Window

Looking ahead to March for the USMNT, the U-23 Olympic team, & the U-20 team

The March international window is going to be a busy time for the men's side of U.S. Soccer with the USMNT, the Olympic team, and the U-20 team all having big camps. ASN's Brian Sciaretta looks ahead. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
February 23, 2024
12:50 PM

MARCH IS SHAPING up to be a big month for three U.S. national teams in the men’s side for three different teams. The full national team will take part in the Nations League final rounds, the U-23 Olympic team will have its second to last camp before the Paris games, and the U.S. U-20 team will kick off its cycle with 2025 U-20 World Cup qualifying likely taking place this summer.

In total, somewhere between 60-70 American players will get called up for the three various camps. They are all important because each of the three teams has very important tournaments this summer and March will give us a good idea about the direction each team is heading.

Let’s look at some of how the rosters could look and some of the big picture questions for each team.


The U.S. national team

Nations League Predicted roster

Goalkeepers: Matt Turner, Ethan Horvath, Zack Steffen

Fullbacks: Sergino Dest, Antonee Robinson, Joe Scally, Kristoffer Lund

Centerback: Miles Robinson, Tim Ream, Chris Richards, Cameron Carter-Vickers

Midfielders: Johnny Cardoso, Yunus Musah, Weston McKennie, Luca de la Torre, Malik Tillman

Forwards: Brenden Aaronson, Kevin Paredes, Gio Reyna, Tim Weah, Christian Pulisic, Ricardo Pepi, Folarin Balogun


The big issues

Most of the USMNT roster picks itself these days, even with the continued absence of Tyler Adams.

At the goalkeeper position, things aren’t great with Matt Turner but he’s still the U.S. team’s first choice until someone replaces him. Ethan Horvath finally made a move where he can play and probably won’t get dropped. But with Zack Steffen returning to the field for Colorado and finally healthy to play, he also could be back in the mix. If not Steffen, Roman Celetano and Drake Callender could get the nod for the No. 3 goalkeeper. Meanwhile, Patrick Schulte and Gaga Slonina are two good options for the U-23 who could push later in the year after the Olympics.

The fullbacks also seem pretty set for now as Sergino Dest and Joe Scally have been on the right side for a long time while Antonee Robinson and Kristoffer Lund have occupied the left.  The big question is Dest’s suspension for the first game. Does Berhalter bring another right back? Probably not given that Tim Weah can shift back there right now.

In central defense, the USMNT pool has been static for a long time as no younger options have emerged. Tim Ream is older but is still a lock. Chris Richards might not be playing central defense all the time for Crystal Palace and the managerial shift there might put his minutes into question. But he’s still on the team. With Auston Trusty’s minutes fading for a poor Sheffield United team and Walker Zimmerman still injured, it leaves Miles Robinson, Cameron Carter-Vickers, and Mark McKenzie essentiallygoing for two spots. Based on recent choices, CCV (who has been injured but should be back soon) and Robinson seem to be ahead.

The midfielders seem obvious at this point (and whether you want to list Gio Reyna and/or Malik Tillman as forwards or wingers doesn’t really matter). Lennard Maloney is on the bubble but for a 23-player roster, he might not make it despite his fall callups.

Christian Pulisic and Tim Weah are the starting wingers and after them it gets thin quickly. Taylor Booth’s latest injury could jeopardize his chances for a call-up. Kevin Paredes still isn’t a big contributor in the Bundesliga with Wolfsburg, but he’s shown glimpses. Brenden Aaronson also has had limited minutes at Union Berlin, but it’s tough to argue that another option has taken his place.

One of the toughest questions for Berhalter heading into March is at the No. 9 position. Folarin Balogun and Ricardo Pepi have been his two options since September, but Balogun has not had a good run the past three months while Ricardo Pepi’s minutes remain limited. This comes at a time when Josh Sargent, Haji Wright, and Brandon Vazquez are scoring (with Wright and Sargent also having the added benefit of being backup wingers).

Specifically, Sargent has put up outstanding numbers with Norwich lately and would be the toughest cut to make. But there could be a good reason to leave Sargent off the team as he is still dealing with his ankle injury that sidelined him for months earlier in the season.

“Some days I'll be feeling great and the next it'll be aching," Sargent told the BBC recently. "It's just something we're trying to manage at the moment…It's not ideal, but it's just something we've got to work through."

"The international break is maybe when we hopefully can give him a longer rest which will be very beneficial," Norwich manager and former USMNT forward David Wagner said this week about Sargent while also adding that was still weeks away and he is thinking game by game.

When reading this, it sounds as if Norwich is hoping that Sargent will stay put this window and not return to the USMNT. Maybe that is for the best.


U.S U-23 team

March camp predicted roster

Goalkeepers: Gaga Slonina, Patrick Schulte

Fullbacks: Bryan Reynolds, Nathan Harriel, John Tolkin, Caleb Wiley

Centerbacks: Jonathan Tomkinson, Maximillian Dietz, George Campbell

Midfielders: Aidan Morris, Tanner Tessmann, Gianluca Busio, Jack McGlynn, Rokas Pukstas

Wingers/Forwards: Paxten Aaronson, Bernard Kamungo, Cade Cowell, Griffin Yow, Esmir Bajraktarevic, Diego Luna, Brian Gutierrez, Duncan McGuire, Kahveh Zahiroleslam


The Big Issues


Right now, the Olympic roster is slated to be 18 players. In 2021 for the Tokyo games, the roster was expanded to 22 players just months before the tournament. Will that happen again? Who knows. Either way, some areas of this team set, and others seem up for grabs. As always, release issues make things complicated. Then you have the overage player discussions.

This is the second to last camp for the team before the Olympics. The final camp will come in June and that camp will also likely see overage players added. This camp might see overage players, but only if they are obvious selections.

The way I see this team right now is that goalkeeping, fullbacks, central midfielders, and center forwards aren’t quite set but we have a pretty good idea where things stand outside of a few limited spots. Central defenders will very likely go to overage players.

What’s left is a very competitive race in the wing/No. 10 positions - often with players like Paxten Aaronson, Brian Gutierrez, and Diego Luna who can play both, or players like Bernard Kamungo, Griffin Yow, Cade Cowell, and Esmir Bajraktarevic (who is eligible for the current U-20 team and the 2028 U-23 Olympic team) who are more dedicated wingers with this team. Even with players like Taylor Booth and Benja Cremaschi likely out for this camp with injury, head coach Marko Mitrovic needs to have a better understanding of the pecking order in this area of the team.

Yes, the roster for the June camp and the final Olympic roster will come down to form in April, May, and June, but right now it seems completely up for grabs in these attacking positions. Yow’s surge in Belgium will only make a hard decision even more difficult.

In this camp, the U.S. team will travel to France, where the Olympics will be held. There they will take on hosts France and possibly another opponent in friendly matches. Also during this window, the team will learn its draw for the Olympics.

Aside from the big forward/winger competition, there are a couple of big questions heading into this camp. If the roster is 18 players, central midfield becomes very competitive. The way I see it, Aidan Morris, Gianluca Busio, Tanner Tessmann, Jack McGlynn, and Rokas Pukstas are five good midfielders in a race for four spots.

Another decision is where the other overage position will go if two are used in central defense? The best guess is center forward. Duncan McGuire is likely the top age-eligible player in the pool (other U-23 options like Pepi and Balogun are with the full national team) and Johan Gomez has been the backup. But Mitrovic might want to look at Kahveh Zahiroleslam of St. Truiden in this camp. But heading into Paris, an overage forward with McGuire seems possible. The best guess at this point would be Brandon Vazquez given that he is with Monterrey and the tournament would only conflict with Leagues Cup and not Liga MX or MLS.


The U.S. U-20 team

March Camp


This camp, likely abroad, will open the U-20 cycle. This is the latest and the murkiest start we’ve seen from a U-20 team in the modern era. The U.S. U-20 team is typically the most important YNT on the men’s side given that the U-17 is very young, and the U-23 team only assembles every four years and is filled with release issues. The U-20 team has consistently been an important feeder and gateway into the full national team, even if it takes players a few years after the U-20 World Cup to break into the USMNT.

But this U-20 cycle is off to a weird start for issues related to U.S. Soccer, CONCACAF, and even FIFA.

On FIFA’s side, we don’t even have a host selected for the 2025 U-20 World Cup nor do we have dates.

On CONCACAF’s side, we don’t even have announced the dates or even the hosting country for the U-20 World Cup qualifying tournament. This is problematic given that the rumors are that the federation wants to have the tournament this summer around the same time as the Olympics. This has made it difficult for top teams to prepare.

On U.S. Soccer’s side, the U-20 team has been dormant since the 2023 U-20 World Cup in June. Typically, the U-20 cycle started with camps in the fall after the U-20 World Cup. Now, they’ve missed the three fall international windows and even the opportunity to have a January camp.

Now we head into March, just months before the U-20 World Cup qualifiers and the U.S. team hasn’t even formally announced its coach let alone had a camp. ASN has been told there will be a March U-20 camp and before then, there will be a coaching announcement. Rumors are that it will be current U-16 coach Michael Nsien (possibly on a short-term basis through qualifying).


The big issues

Until there is a head coach or at least one camp, it’s hard to predict a roster. But there are some big issues for this team that are pressing.

Obviously, the Nsien or whoever is coaching the team needs to get a lot right in terms of its scouting ahead of camp. In most U-20 cycles there are several camps prior to qualifying and the coach can take his time evaluating players and building a team. In this cycle, a lot has to go right immediately.

After this camp, the staff must have a good idea already of who the core will be for qualifying. Of course, some players could emerge in the opening months of the MLS season and there should be flexibility to incorporate some in-form and rising players. But, a solid piece of the team needs to be identified.

Who are some of the top players? Obed Vargas, Niko Tsakiris, and Josh Wynder are U-20 eligible and return from having played up a cycle at the last U-20 World Cup. All three should be important parts of the team. Benja Cremaschi (currently injured) and Esmir Bajraktarevic have both earned USMNT caps recently and have been playing with the U-23 team as well up a cycle. At some point, they should shift down to the U-20 team although Bajraktarevic is still firmly in the U-23 mix right now.

The team is in a good position in goal with Barcelona’s Diego Kochen and Real Salt Lake’s Gavin Beavers. At forward, DC United’s Kristian Fletcher should be expected to contribute a lot. The same should be said of Seattle defender/midfielder Reed Baker-Whiting.

The biggest question for this team will be how ready the last U-17 World Cup team is ready to contribute at the U-20 level right away? If enough players are ready to move up, that will only supplement the existing core quickly.

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