The 2022 FIFA World Cup draw (and a wholly strange viewing experience) is complete and seems like a big deal for people who value a tiny gold trophy with a globe on it more than MLS Cup. Fair play to them, I suppose.
Fortunately, the draw has given us plenty of MLS to look forward to come November. The league will have players ready to make an impact for their country in almost every group (depending on how playoffs go in June). Here’s your guide to reverting every soccer-based conversation you have about the 2022 World Cup back to MLS.
It's probably important to note here that not everyone here will definitely make their country’s final roster – Qatar's first kick in November is seven-plus months away – but today is a today for dreams. Even if those dreams are nightmares involving the new mascot.
We appropriately start with the most MLS-laden group that doesn’t include the United States or Canada. Xavier Arreaga (Seattle), Diego Palacios (LAFC), Jhegson Mendez (Orlando City SC), Alan Franco (Charlotte FC edition), Jose Cifuentes (LAFC) and Michael Estrada (D.C. United) each had a place on the Ecuadorian national team this last window.
Joshue Quinonez (FC Dallas), the recently-traded Gustavo Vallecilla (Colorado), Jordy Alcivar (Charlotte) and Leonardo Campana (Inter Miami CF) have all made appearances for La Tri as well. Pedro Vite (Vancouver) is a highly-rated youth international, too.
There are only a few players on the final USMNT roster that won’t be either MLS alums or current MLS players. I have no idea who those players from the latter group will actually be, though guys like Walker Zimmerman, Miles Robinson and Kellyn Acosta all seem like locks (and our roster prediction took a stab at a 23-man group).
What I do know is when we make our way to award season and Cincy’s Brandon Vazquez has just finished up his inevitable run to a Landon Donovan MLS MVP nod, I’d take him.
El Tri has some MLS choices to make. It feels like Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy) has a decent chance to make the roster. What about Galaxy teammate Efrain Alvarez? It seems very unlikely but maybe Mexico takes a chance and brings in a recently-healed Alan Pulido (Sporting Kansas City)? Maybe someone convinces the people in charge of these decisions that LA’s Chicharito is still pretty good at soccer considering that scoring goals seem to be a big part of the sport?
Of course, you can’t forget, soon-to-be Houston (!!) midfielder Hector Herrera is a lock. And I guess Rodolfo Pizarro kind of sort of counts as an Inter Miami rep, though he's on loan at Liga MX's Monterrey. Perhaps Toronto FC defender Carlos Salcedo works back into the pool? Plus, for any Atlanta United fans still invested in the travels of Tata Martino, a revenge (?) game against Argentina should be a must-watch.
Elsewhere in the group, Mexico will have to deal with the best striker in the world, Karol Swiderski (Charlotte FC). He’ll of course be trying to hold off Adam Buksa (New England Revolution), but fortunately, off the top of my head, I can’t imagine they’ll have much else competition at forward aside from this guy named Robert Lewandowski (heard he's a high-potential player).
Additionally, Charlotte’s newest DP, Kamil Jozwiak has 22 caps in his career. We haven’t seen him in MLS yet, but a solid season in the Queen City could put him on track for Qatar.
Peru still have some work to do in their one-game playoff with Australia (and Columbus defender Milos Degenek) or the United Arab Emirates, but having Alexander Callens (NYCFC) and Pedro Gallese (Orlando City) should at least keep them sound defensively in that one. Marcos Lopez (San Jose) may also see some time in the Peru backline.
In attack, Edison Flores (D.C. United) and hopefully a healthy Raul Ruidiaz (Seattle) should be there to help out as well. Possibly we'll see Yordy Reyna (Charlotte FC) as well.
Anyway, we’re halfway through this and I have written “Charlotte FC” way more than I think anyone could have reasonably expected for an expansion team.
Costa Rica also have a one-game playoff awaiting them vs. New Zealand, but will likely take plenty of MLS talent to Qatar for that win-and-you’re-in match. Francisco Calvo (San Jose), Ronald Matarrita (FC Cincinnati) and Randall Leal (Nashville SC) should all be along for the ride vs. Bill Tuiloma (Portland) and the All Whites.
Joseph Mora (Charlotte FC), Julio Cascante (Austin FC), Allan Cruz (FC Cincinnati), Ariel Lassiter (Inter Miami) and Luis Diaz (Columbus Crew) all have a chance at joining Los Ticos as well. Cruz and Lassiter are perhaps the most likely of the bunch based on history, with 41 caps between them.
Almost all of Canada's big stars came through MLS via one pathway or another, and we’d be remiss not to highlight mainstays like Jonathan Osorio (Toronto FC), Mark-Anthony Kaye (Colorado), Alistair Johnston (CF Montréal), Lucas Cavallini (Vancouver) and Maxime Crepeau (LAFC).
From the young-ish pool, keep an eye on Ismael Kone (Montréal), Dayne St. Clair (Minnesota United) and like half of Toronto FC’s roster for up-and-coming MLS stars that might play their way onto the first Canadian men’s World Cup roster in 36 years.
There’s a thought I have after every season ends. “Boohoo,” I think. “No more Nouhou (Seattle).” But this year, the season will end and I will get more Nouhou. This time in the World Cup with Cameroon. Thank you Nouhou and Cameroon, for prolonging my realization of life’s harsh realities a little while longer.
Also, Olivier Mbaizo (Philadelphia) might be there with the Indomitable Lions. He’ll have to earn his starting spot back in Philly though to do that I’d imagine.
Xherdan Shaqiri (Chicago), of course, will be there for Switzerland. However, in a way, it feels like he’s more there for the Fire, who will finally have a chance to redeem themselves and win the World Cup after Bastian Schweinsteiger failed to do so during his time in the Windy City.
Ghana might bring along a couple of Crew members. Jonathan Mensah has 69 caps in his career and Yaw Yeboah joined Ghana for this most recent qualifying cycle.
And Orlando City may send a pair of players along with Uruguay. Facundo Torres and Cesar Araujo both have a shot at the final roster. As do Brian Rodriguez (LAFC) and Santiago Rodriguez (NYCFC). Not a bad idea for Uruguay to send several MLS 22 Under 22 presented by BODYARMOR contenders.