Gio Reyna: What is the controversy around USMNT World Cup star?

Gio Reyna USMNT

The controversy around Gio Reyna’s limited playing time for the US men’s national team at the 2022 FIFA World Cup seemed to cool down.

Then Sunday and Monday happened.

Here’s what we know about the situation surrounding the 20-year-old Borussia Dortmund attacker and New York City FC academy product.

What happened in Qatar?

Reyna, maligned by injuries during Concacaf qualifying, recovered to make the USMNT’s 26-man roster for the World Cup. But his participation was limited in Group B play:

Head coach Gregg Berhalter, on several occasions, was asked about Reyna not featuring more prominently at the World Cup. Berhalter cited fitness concerns, while Reyna (as one example) said he was “ready to go” after the Wales match. There were conflicting messages.

The USMNT advanced to the Round of 16 as Group B’s second-place team. Reyna then played his biggest role against the Netherlands, getting 45 minutes as a second-half substitute when the Yanks were trailing 2-0 at halftime.

Reyna played both as a false No. 9 and winger, though comeback attempts vs. the Oranje didn’t pan out. They finished 14th out of 32 nations in Qatar, unable to mount a deep knockout round run.

Would the USMNT have advanced further if Reyna, one of the program’s most talented players, was used more? That debate and question will always linger.

Berhalter’s comments

Last week, at a leadership summit, Berhalter reportedly said a player was “clearly not meeting expectations on and off the field.” The situation escalated to the USMNT possibly sending him home from Qatar, and said player was asked to apologize to the team.

It’s since been reported that the individual was Reyna, and U.S. Soccer has said Berhalter’s remarks were off the record. They were never intended to be public, never mind published in a newsletter.

A report from The Athletic also detailed how Reyna’s perceived lack of effort in training was the main point of contention. Teammates reportedly took issue with Reyna's demeanor and application with such important games on the horizon.

Reyna’s statement

As the story escalated, Reyna issued a public statement on his Instagram page on Monday. The controversy had gone public, and he confirmed there were issues in training which led to an apology.

“I fully acknowledge that I let my emotions get the best of me and affect my training and behavior for a few days after learning about my limited role,” Reyna wrote. “I apologized to my teammates and coach for this, and I was told I was forgiven.”

Reyna said he wasn’t set for a big role during the tournament, which sparked a negative reaction. But he hoped the issue would remain in-house, and already has an eye on building toward the 2026 World Cup on home soil.

“I love my team, I love representing my country, and I am focusing now only on improving and growing as a soccer player and a person,” Reyna wrote. “I hope that going forward each person involved in U.S. Soccer focuses only on what is in the best interest of the men's national team so we can enjoy great success at the World Cup in 2026.”

What happens from here?

The answer isn’t entirely clear.

What’s certain is Reyna has a bright future in the game, already scoring four goals in 16 international appearances as the USMNT instituted a young, promising generation. He’s also one of the top youngsters in the German Bundesliga, regularly playing centrally and out wide for a UEFA Champions League-caliber squad.

As for Berhalter, he’s reportedly had preliminary talks with U.S. Soccer to extend his contract into the 2026 World Cup cycle. After their exit in Qatar, Berhalter said he’d "sit down and think about what's next."

At the bare minimum, an intra-squad issue has turned messy and may impact team-wide dynamics. This may blow over, too, with social media discourse and real-life issues not always aligning. And it's certainly not the first time an in-team issue has been resolved amid tensions.

For now, the controversy ferments.