DeAndre Yedlin: USMNT has "no ceiling" as World Cup approaches

BLAINE, Minn. – DeAndre Yedlin saw Christian Pulisic’s remarks on ESPN’s Futbol Americas show, that the US men’s national team has “the intention to win the World Cup” later this year.

Consider the Inter Miami CF defender on the same page as the Chelsea FC winger as their Qatar 2022 Group B opener against Wales (Nov. 21) rapidly approaches.

“We're not going there just to go there,” the 2014 World Cup veteran told after Tuesday’s MLS All-Stars training session. “We're going there to do a job and I think as a team, if your goal isn't to win whatever competition you're in, then there really is no reason to go. It's not going to be good enough and hey we got fourth in the group or even second. We want to go there to win.”

Yedlin, 29, is one of the program’s most experienced players, owning 74 caps from 2014 to the present day. He’s seen the evolution through various ups and downs, and has grown confident they’ll make some noise under head coach Gregg Berhalter later this fall.

“Obviously people have certain expectations for us and media and outside noise will say they can get this far or that far,” Yedlin said, with Iran and England their other group-stage opponents. “But at the end of the day, this team, I don't think, has a ceiling. There's no ceiling, and it's a different sort of swagger than I've seen before with this team.

“It's a team that I think just knows we're a good group and a good team. But we also have to go out and perform and show that. Hopefully we'll go there and make some noise, and I'm guessing surprise a lot of people. I don't think a lot of people think we'll go as far as we think we can.”

Big-game ready

The USMNT missed the 2018 World Cup, though had made seven straight tournaments from 1990 to 2014. The furthest the Yanks have advanced is a third-place finish way back in 1930, while in 2002 they reached the quarterfinals.

This go-around, they’re a historically young team that’s bridging generations and features players at some of the world’s biggest clubs. Yedlin said that’s not a deterrent, though.

“We're a young team in age, but in experience I don't think we're young at all,” the defender noted. “You have guys like Christian [Pulisic] and Tyler [Adams] and Weston [McKennie], Sergino [Dest] and a bunch more who have all played in very big games and have been playing since they've been very young at a professional level.

“For me, Tyler or Christian, you look around and you think they've been around for 10 years but you don't realize they're still in their early 20s. Age, yes, we're young. But experience-wise I think we're quite a seasoned team.”

Yedlin observed the roster’s core is well-versed against global stars, feeling like they belong on those stages.

“They have that confidence now that they can compete with the best in the world and at a young age, when you've already gone through Champions League games and been in big finals like Christian or Zack Steffen, Weston, Sergino in El Clasico, it matters,” Yedlin said. “When you have that sort of experience – obviously a World Cup is the biggest stage you can get, but you're a lot more comfortable and you can be a lot more confident that you'll perform well."

Roster competition

Yedlin recognizes he’s no lock for the USMNT’s World Cup roster, either. It can include up to 26 players (instead of the normal 23) after FIFA’s formal announcement in June, but right back is arguably the squad’s deepest position.

With those like Dest, Boavista’s Reggie Cannon, Nashville SC’s Shaq Moore and Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Joe Scally among options, competition is ramping up before Berhalter’s staff makes decisions.

“I love it and it only makes everybody better,” said Yedlin, a three-time MLS All-Star. “It's competition you love to have, and everybody in the position is a humble guy. There are no hard feelings. We're just all trying to make each other better and lift the team up.”

Yedlin, a Seattle Sounders FC homegrown product, is putting his best foot forward while back in the league. He returned in February after nearly a decade in Europe, playing for the likes of England’s Newcastle United and Turkey’s Galatasaray before joining the Herons' faster-than-expected rebuild.

“I hold onto the value that you don't know if you're going to be there tomorrow,” said Yedlin, a key part of Miami’s strong 2022 season. “So every game I go in with Miami, I'm not thinking about the World Cup. Every training session, I'm not thinking about the World Cup or not trying to get injured or anything like that. I'm just going out and doing what I got to do because, let's be honest, tomorrow is not promised.”