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 still more than four 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 last year'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. The Top 50 is based on current form, as well as potential, which is why some top prospects just beginning their careers are listed ahead of established professionals, and why an elite talent like Giovanni Reyna can be included despite having yet to formally start his professional career.
We will exclude all players who will be in their 30s in 2022, which leaves out the likes of Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood. 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.