When it comes to the US men’s national team, Maurice Edu brings a unique perspective as a former player and current pundit.
Edu was capped 46 times, breaking through in the buildup to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, where he made three appearances.
With that background, the 35-year-old joined co-hosts Susannah Collins and Jillian Sakovits on the latest The Call Up episode to discuss the USMNT's attempts to qualify for Qatar 2022, drawing comparison to when he was part of Concacaf battles.
The biggest difference, Edu said, was their strong veteran core included Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Carlos Bocanegra shouldering the bulk of the pressure, which allowed Edu and other younger players to make an easier transition to the USMNT. Now, key players like Gio Reyna and Christian Pulisic are in their teenage years or early 20s.
“My first camp, I remember there were like seven of us young guys who came into camp and the rest of the team was already guys who had either played in World Cups, played in Gold Cups, won Gold Cups – just experience,” Edu said. “Pretty much positions one to nine already in ink and then it was two spots everyone else was competing for, whereas you look at this team now and you’re welcoming in 11 fresh faces to assume the national team.”
Without those seasoned veterans, the current USMNT has been handed an immense amount of pressure to qualify for the World Cup after the failed qualification bid for Russia 2018.
There have been growing pains, such as opening with WCQ draws against El Salvador and Canada before an inspired comeback victory at Honduras. But Edu said he's bullish on head coach Gregg Berhalter's squad, which sits third in the Octagonal stage before October's window of a road trip to Panama and home games against Jamaica and Costa Rica.
“They believe in themselves, which goes a long way," Edu said. "They seem to be a really tight-knit group, obviously the talent level is incredible. I think the talent level surpasses what we’ve seen from most teams, from our team. We had a good team, but when you think about the individuals on this team, there’s some really good pieces. I think they’ve come together maybe quicker than I thought they might have.”
Obviously the onus remains on 2022 World Cup qualification, but Edu is pumped about what this young core could accomplish – if they remain intact – when the 2026 World Cup unfolds across the United States, Canada and Mexico.
“I think they’re going to do well in qualifying and ultimately, if not this World Cup, if this group stays together and matures the right way, when it’s on home soil, aight, let’s go,” Edu said. “I’ll be excited at that point too.”
You can watch the entire episode of The Call Up here.