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Who will Berhalter call up for the USMNT's Concacaf Nations League matches?

11:15 AM EDT 10/1/19
Christian Pulisic USMNT 2019
With matches against Cuba and Canada on the schedule, the U.S. are still missing a number of key players due to injuries

The U.S. men's national team will return to play in a brand new competition during October's international break, and head coach Gregg Berhalter can handle that new competition in a number of different ways.

Following frustrating September friendlies against Mexico and Uruguay, the U.S. will kickstart the Concacaf Nations League with matches against Cuba and Canada next week. The Nations League, the first of its kind from Concacaf as the federation looks to promote a whole new slate of competitive matches, offers Berhalter different opportunities to mix and match his squad as his first year in charge heads towards a close.

Does he take this opportunity to blood a younger generation of stars that aren't quite ready for the highest level of international play, or does he use this as a chance to drill his first-choice lineup in order to avoid embarrassments like the 3-0 battering from El Tri last month?

Regardless of which way Berhalter leans, the USMNT will be expected to cruise past Cuba, a country that has long struggled against even the minnows of the Gold Cup. But the match against Canada will be a valuable test, as the pool north of the border has become much deeper and significantly more talented, making that clash in Toronto an important measuring stick for both sides.

Is the USMNT closer to El Tri, a team that is the region's best beyond a shadow of a doubt, or Canada, a team on the rise but not yet near the top level of international soccer?

What blend of players can help answer that question? Here's our best guess for how Berhalter could assemble the USMNT squad.

Goalkeepers

Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Sean Johnson (NYCFC), Zack Steffen (Fortuna Dusseldorf)

Zack Steffen has the starting job completely locked down at this point, and very little will change that. His recent play with Fortuna Dusseldorf has strengthened his stranglehold on the No.1 shirt, with the goalkeeper having earned several Team of the Week nods since his last USMNT appearance with a recent penalty kick save serving as icing on the cake. In need of caps to help his English work permit case, Steffen isn't going anywhere, so expect him to start at least one, if not both, of these matches.

Sean Johnson has emerged as Berhalter's preferred backup since taking over in January. Although he has proven a bit mistake-prone at times, Johnson frequently does play with his feet with NYCFC and has the ability to pull off highlight-reel saves. In other words, he's a perfectly fine backup for Steffen.

As for the third goalkeeper in camp, Berhalter can go a number of ways. He could rely on experience in Brad Guzan or bring in a younger option in Jesse Gonzalez, although MLS playoffs could play a role when it comes to who gets called in. Or, alternatively, he could provide a boost to Ethan Horvath, who could use the exposure having been sat behind Simon Mignolet at Club Brugge.

Defenders

Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact), Tim Ream (Fulham), Antonee Robinson (Wigan), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC)

There's one name every USMNT fan wants to see involved, and that's Sergino Dest. With his international future still up in the air, it's up to the Ajax defender to decide his own path at this point. The Netherlands are clearly interested, although he wasn't named in Ronald Koeman's latest squad, and playing for the USMNT in either of the upcoming matches would cap-tie him. Dest faces a decision that will certainly have a massive impact on both his international and club future. Because of that, one would expect Dest to sit this one out and mull it over while furthering his club career with Ajax.

Dest isn't the only one set to miss out. John Brooks and Matt Miazga remain injured, while DeAndre Yedlin's recent return from injury may not have come in time to join this camp. 

As for who will be involved, it's a safe bet to see some familiar faces in Aaron Long and Walker Zimmerman, despite some frustrating performances during the last camp. There are players out wide that could make a difference in Reggie Cannon, Antonee Robinson and Nick Lima, while Tim Ream provides versatility either down the middle or out wide. 

If Berhalter wants a veteran presence, Omar Gonzalez could join the squad, while Cameron Carter-Vickers has seemingly found his level in England with Stoke City, potentially earning another look.

Midfielders

Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Schalke), Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew)

The obvious absence is Tyler Adams, who is getting closer and closer to his return with RB Leipzig. We've never truly seen the USMNT's go-to midfield due to the untimely injuries of all involved but, with Adams nearing full fitness, maybe, just maybe, that day is coming soon.

Until then, there's still a solid base together, headlined by Weston McKennie. The Schalke midfielder is one of those players that makes up the current and future generation, and he's surrounded by the usual suspects with the likes of Michael Bradley, Wil Trapp and Cristian Roldan.

In terms of creativity, that will fall to Sebastian Lletget and Paxton Pomykal, although Berhalter could also turn towards the surging Duane Holmes or, if he wants another deeper-lying player, Jackson Yueill. 

Forwards

Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Tyler Boyd (Besiktas), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen)

The big question here is how Berhalter handles his strikers, especially with Jozy Altidore back in the fold. Can he rely on Josh Sargent as that second option or does he fall back into the dependable yet controversial choice of Gyasi Zardes?

Fortunately, there are any number of wing options to choose from, headlined by Christian Pulisic as usual. This is a vital camp for the Chelsea man, who has fallen down the pecking order at the club level. Can he use this international break as a springboard back into Frank Lampard's good graces? USMNT fans will certainly hope so.

Jordan Morris, meanwhile, has been in incredible form for the Seattle Sounders with three goals and three assists in his last five starts. Morris is a player that feels like he's been around forever as his career truly took off shortly after the 2014 World Cup, but he's still just 24 years old. Morris could still have a vital part to play this cycle and, if his club form is anything to go by, he's starting to finally blossom into the player many thought he would be during his time at Stanford.