If the 2022 World Cup seems a million years away, it's because it's going to feel that way as U.S. national team fans are forced to endure the years of waiting to see their team return to the sport's biggest stage.
That World Cup is slated to take place in December 2022, making it almost a full five years from now before we can hope to see American players taking on the world's best in an event U.S. fans grew to take for granted after qualifying for seven straight tournaments.
Americans are living in a new reality, though, one where the nightmare of October's World Cup qualifying debacle in Trinidad & Tobago left them with no choice but to forge ahead and think about the future and the young players who will look to lift the program from the ashes.
The good news is that there is a considerable amount of young talent on the way up the pipeline, in MLS and abroad — arguably more young talent than we have ever seen at one time. Christian Pulisic's meteoric rise in Germany has inspired dozens of fellow Americans to make the jump overseas in search of glory, while more and more teenagers are signing deals in MLS.
With that in mind, here is a closer look at the talent pool that will be drawn from to build the next U.S. World Cup — assuming the Americans successfully qualify. We will exclude all players who will be in their 30s when the 2022 World Cup kicks off, which leaves out the likes of Jozy Altidore, Bobby Wood and Michael Bradley. Obviously there should be a few players in their 30s on the 2022 U.S. World Cup squad, but the team's success will hinge on the nucleus of players in their prime years.