Although the US men’s national team is currently unsure of when they’ll take the field next, the process of achieving international success waits for no program.
The COVID-19 pause postponed some games and knocked other straight off the calendar, but that has just given Gregg Berhalter and his staff more time to think ahead.
Specifically, it has granted extra time to study up on uncapped players that are in position to make a run at the USMNT pool before, say, the Olympics or Gold Cup rolls around next year. Being that you’re probably well caught up with such risers playing in MLS, we’re here to give a rundown of Europe-based players worth sizing up for the USMNT frame over the next year.
Some are already in the youth pipeline to the senior side, while others are dual citizens it makes sense to at least court. A couple of the guys listed below are probably ready for a shot now, but most have some work to do to reach senior roster consideration (or the USMNT has work to do to secure a commitment, as the case may be).
Before we launch into the list, let’s run through some players with a chance to play their way onto the radar before too long. Consider this less of an “honorable mentions” and more of a “keep one eye out” group: Maurice Malone, Matko Miljevic, Owen Otasowie and Haji Wright.
Some will consider this one a long shot, and that might well be fair. The New York City-born teenager, who’s knocking on the Arsenal first team door, played his last 10 international games (with three goals) for England’s Under-18 side.
Then again, the striker does have some experience playing for the US at the same age level, and admitted last year that he wasn’t sure which national team he’d eventually commit to (he’s also eligible to represent Nigeria). Balogun has many tools in his belt, but most of all he’s a clever finisher.
Following his first camp with the senior side, the Hobro traffic director watched February’s friendly win over Costa Rica from the dugout. But he’s still uncapped, so I’m tabbing him, and you can’t stop me.
Cappis has been solid in his first full season as a starter in Denmark’s Superliga. The 20-year-old distributes smoothly and battles well defensively. He’s drawing transfer interest from bigger leagues, and is a good bet to be the first player from this list to earn a debut cap.
The Caen forward might just inspire some déjà vu. Not since Charlie Davies has the USMNT had a play-driver that can get behind the defense from all channels. The 19-year-old has been doing just that in Ligue 2 while bagging a few goals and winning a couple of spot kicks.
Though also able to suit up for Italy and Jamaica, the Kansas City-born Gioacchini is a USMNT fan from way back and has spoken of a desire to shoot for the Olympics in red, white and blue. Following a March chat with Gregg Berhalter, he was reportedly under consideration for a call-up ahead of the cancelled March friendlies.
He may not look like your typical fox-in-the-box striker, but that hasn’t stopped the 18-year-old from breaking out for League One Southend this season. One might assume that a productive 5-foot-7 attacker would be an ace dribbler, but Kelman prefers work off the ball, darting into soft spots in the defense to finish moves.
He has netted seven times in 19 total games, including a Goal of the Week from beyond midfield. Kelman, who has been linked with interest from the likes of Aston Villa, Tottenham and West Ham United, could play his way into the Olympic squad battle despite his age.
Here are the highlights of Charlie Kelman’s brace against Stevenage in Southend’s 2-1 League Cup win yesterday. Southend advances to the 2nd round of the competition for the first time since 2010 👏👏👏
— Future USMNT (@FutureUsmnt) August 14, 2019
Stateside fans got a good look at Ledezma’s skills in last year’s Under-20 World Cup, when he notched in assist in a 3-2 US upset of round-of-16 foe France. The 19-year-old midfielder has only grown since then, and cracking the PSV Eindhoven rotation appears to be just a matter of time.
Ledezma typically brings a measured approach to the No. 10 role, but also has the ability to harass defenses from the flank. Versatility never hurts when it comes to international viability, and he’s got a crash course with over 2,000 Dutch second flight minutes this past season. He’s definitely in the Olympic frame, but more is possible if he starts seeing time at Philips Stadion next season.
The 19-year-old Ajax center back counts as a dual national case very much up in the air. Born in Boston but raised in the Netherlands, Pierie has only ever appeared for Oranje at the various youth international levels. However, he has left a door open to the senior USMNT and is talented enough to suggest that another tug-of-war with the Dutch federation could be in the cards.
Pierie spent this past season honing his craft with Young Ajax, but already has two solid seasons of Eredivisie play at Heerenveen under his belt. He has the closing prowess to shut down emergencies and can play the ball out of the back like a maestro. Best of all? He doubles as a competent two-way left back.
Another guy deep in the Olympic roster conversation, Sabbi is steadily moving up in the soccer world. When the attacker is done with season duties at Hobro, he will make an already agreed move to Odense BK.
The 22-year-old is an all-action threat that can play anywhere along the front line. He has notched 15 goals in 75 Hobro matches across all competitions, and practically saved them from relegation last spring single-handedly. Once he establishes a little more consistency, a call-up should follow.
Any USMNT supporter worth their salt has been aware of the Rennes striker for a while now. Siebatcheu has only two France Under-21 caps from a few years ago to his ledger, and is no stranger to our attention. He received a US call-up back in 2018, but turned it down because he was in the middle of the transfer over from Reims. The next time he’s summoned, we’ll probably see him in camp.
For now, though, the 24-year-old’s primary focus should be on reaching solid Ligue 1 ground. Siebatcheu, who hit 17 times in the second flight two seasons ago to earn that Rennes move, has struggled to translate that level of production to the top tier. He was expecting a big breakthrough this season, but has only managed one goal in 21 total appearances.