After failing to make the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, the US men’s national team is hoping to avoid another calamity by qualifying for the 2022 version in Qatar.
How New England Revolution sporting director and head coach Bruce Arena sees it, there’s little concern over the USMNT falling on their face again.
“It’s not great, but it’s not terrible,” Arena told ESPN FC of the team’s state under Gregg Berhalter. “I think they’ll be positioned to qualify for the next World Cup. I have no doubt in my mind they’ll qualify the next World Cup. No doubt.”
The confidence, Arena said, comes from the format for Concacaf qualifying. Instead of navigating a group stage before the Hex, the USMNT will slot directly into the six-team tournament due to their spot in the FIFA World Rankings. From there, all focus shifts to finishing in the top three and booking a return to the World Cup, with the fourth-place team still able to qualify through an additional playoff round.
As those efforts get underway, Arena said recent USMNT results carry little importance. The 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup final loss against Mexico and historic Concacaf Nations League defeat against Canada were low moments of the last calendar year.
“I think the last two years have been difficult, but it really doesn’t matter what the last two years have been like,” Arena said. “What’s important is how they play in 2020 and 2021 to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.”
Arena is entering his first full season with the Revolution, having successfully engineered their Audi MLS Cup Playoffs return in 2019 after a three-year absence. He coached the USMNT at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, but couldn’t engineer qualification in 2018 after taking over from Jurgen Klinsmann on an emergency basis.