Head coach Gregg Berhalter and his staff, recognizing the potential challenges there, plan on being proactive for MLS-based players who aren’t in the postseason or get knocked out early, organizing a training camp in October. The exact location and dates are yet to be announced.
Consider it the latest scheduling wrinkle the USMNT must juggle in the buildup to Qatar, a rare fall World Cup that’s been pushed back from the typical summer months to account for weather conditions in the Middle East.
“With some of the MLS players, it becomes even more tricky because the season ends October 9,” Berhalter said Wednesday as their 26-man roster for September camp friendlies was announced, the last official window before the final roster is revealed Nov. 9 at an event in New York City.
“And if their teams don't make the playoffs, now it's a whole other opportunity to work with the guys in October, keep them fit, maximize their fitness levels and hopefully play some games. So we're planning an October camp as well for that group of players that won't be playing soccer then.”
With MLS Cup on Nov. 5, USMNT players in the league could play through just before Berhalter’s squad descends on Qatar. Those like LAFC midfielder Kellyn Acosta, FC Dallas forward Jesus Ferreira and New York Red Bulls center back Aaron Long are among those harboring dreams of a quick turnaround between club and country duty as the regular season gives way to playoff pursuits.
On the flip side, 2022-23 seasons across Europe will be taking a mid-year pause to account for the World Cup’s unconventional place on the calendar. That leaves Christian Pulisic and Chelsea scheduled to play through Nov. 12 and Weston McKennie and Juventus penciled in for a Nov. 13 match, to highlight two stars, creating busy times between top-flight concerns and international aspirations.
All along, in the absence of a traditional friendly series and prolonged camp before group play begins, the USMNT values every opportunity to fine-tune preparation.
“It would be different if we had a month lead-up, that we had three preparation games and we say, 'Okay, it really doesn't matter what type of form this guy's in because we'll have time to get him where we need to get him to,'” Berhalter said. “Thinking about that, club form will be important. If a guy's not playing at all from now until the World Cup, it's going to be a challenge for us. And although we have five substitutes, just thinking about the player's fitness could be an issue.”
The MLS-based camp has some precedent. In January 2022, Berhalter called in an MLS-only contingent before World Cup qualifiers later that winter, gathering in Phoenix, Arizona.
The training period, simple as, will keep players sharp for a World Cup squad that seems to have several roster spots open.
“It's important to keep in mind that this is not the final roster,” Berhalter said of the September group. “This is not the final roster for the World Cup. A lot can happen between now and November 9, which is when we're announcing the final roster. The actual date for FIFA is November 14 and a lot can happen between the 9th and the 14th, so just keep that in mind.”