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From grassroots to main stage: How the U.S. is preparing for the 2026 World Cup

With just a day before the opening of the 2018 World Cup, the United States Soccer Federation received news that the whole nation had been waiting for: that they, combined with Canada and Mexico, won the rights to the 2026 World Cup.

After the crushing defeat to Trinidad & Tobago eliminated the US from qualifying for this year’s World Cup, the first one in after 7 straight entries, this could be a silver lining. The U.S. will have time to reboot with a crop of young new talent and build a superior squad for 2026.

Former United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) head coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, stated that not reaching the World Cup is a “set back by several years…that was a huge disappointment,” and on the surface, this may seem like an accurate statement. However, when taking a second to think about the status of the USMNT, is it actually a setback?

Can the USMNT progress to something much greater in the future in the face of adversity? Let’s face it, the same stars that led the U.S. out of the group of death to the round of 16 in the 2014 World Cup were not going to get us into this year’s World Cup.

Aging U.S. stars Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard didn’t possess the same firepower they once did four years ago, and we had to begin to part ways with them.

So, who did we to rely on for this year’s World Cup? Wonderkid and Dortmund star Christian Pulisic, at just 19-years-old! To lead a country is a lot to ask for from anyone, especially a kid who’s still a teenager!

Not making this year’s World Cup, while disappointing, allowed our new crop of player to gain valuable experience. While it may be hard to wave goodbye to the players that lead us to an over-exceeding 2014, it’s just paving the way to cultivate a crop of new young talent.

Who should we be looking forward to seeing in World Cups to come, specifically 2026? Let’s look at the rising stars at each Forward, Midfield, Defender, and Goalie who can be leading the U.S. in the 2026 games.

Timothy Weah, Forward (18)

Soccer is in this young man’s blood.

Son of former Paris Saint-Germain player George Weah, Timothy Weah is on the same path as he is signed with the top French club for 3 years starting in 2017.

Back at it tomorrow ….🇺🇸 vs 🇮🇪

A post shared by timothyweah (@timothyweah) on

Weah has a ton of future potential and is looking to become a star striker for the USMNT.

He has played in only three games for the national side and already has scored a goal. Keep an eye on this 18-year-old for many years to come.

Christian Pulisic, Midfield/Winger (19)

Touted as the future for American soccer, keep an eye on this Midfielder/Winger to be a scoring machine for the United States in all matches to come.

His development in the Bundesliga (Germany’s top soccer league) has helped propel Pulisic’s game to new heights.

Win your moment🇺🇸🤷🏻‍♂️

A post shared by Christian (@cmpulisic) on

In 2026, Pulisic will hopefully be in the prime form being only 27 years young.

Things are looking bright for both Pulisic and America if he keeps up on this pace.

DeAndre Yedlin, Defender (24)

This speedster has been around the U.S. team since 2014.

His pace is like no other and this helps him be a solid defender stopping oncoming attacks as well creating opportunities for counterattack situations.

Another one😆 🔴🔴🔴

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In 2026 this man will be 32, and look for him to be a solid team leader anchoring the defense for the future of the USMNT.

Zack Steffen, GK (23)

While this young man has only three caps for the USMNT, he had an excellent performance against highly anticipated World Cup favorites France before the World Cup.

He made brilliant saves against a lethal attack from France and has a very bright future ahead of him.

While currently playing for the Columbus Crew, look for Steffen to be shipped overseas during the transfer window to help improve his game and come back an even better Keeper than he already shows promise to be.

zoned . .

A post shared by Zack Steffen (@zacksteff_23) on

That’s just a snippet of the many young players that the U.S. is grooming for the future. 1994 might have laid the foundation for the U.S. in the soccer world but look for 2026 to ignite the passion of a new generation of talent.

While not qualifying for 2018 might have been a step back, the U.S. took two steps forward in preparing for the 2026 World Cup. The future is bright for America.

Keep an eye out for these young stars to shine. As the saying goes, “I believe that we will win!”