Predicting the USMNT Squad for the 2018 World Cup

Tre' AtkinsonFeatured ColumnistJuly 7, 2014

Predicting the USMNT Squad for the 2018 World Cup

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The 2014 World Cup is now in the rear-view mirror for the U.S. men's national team, but preparing for the future starts now. World Cup 2018 is not too far down the road, and the USMNT will be looking to have an even better showing in Russia.

    Many of today's U.S. stars will likely not be in the next World Cup squad, but the team could become even better in four years.

    In this article we will take a look at the potential 23-man squad for 2018 and discuss just how strong the American team could really be. We will assume that the USMNT will still be using their 4-2-3-1 formation that brought recent success.

    Just click "Begin Slideshow" below to get started.

Goalkeepers

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    Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    Starter: Brad Guzan

    Substitutes: Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid

     

    When World Cup 2018 comes around, American hero Tim Howard will be close to 40. Though it is possible that he could still be manning the post in four years, its very unlikely that he will be in the squad.

    With Howard out of the picture, long-time backup Brad Guzan is sure to get the nod.

    Guzan will be 33 in four years and ready to lead the team. He has a lot of experience playing behind Howard and knows how to lead a defense well.

    Choosing who will play behind Guzan, however, is quite a difficult task.

    Cody Cropper, Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid are all talented young keepers, but only two can come along. Johnson and Hamid have the best chance because they have already seen time in the USMNT and are more experienced at this point. 

    When World Cup 2018 arrives, Johnson will be 29, while Hamid will be 27. At those ages, America will already be grooming the next leader.

Full-Backs

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    Matt Dunham/Associated Press

    Starters: DeAndre Yedlin and Fabian Johnson

    Substitutes: Timothy Chandler and Chris Klute

     

    DeAndre Yedlin became a household name in Brazil, and he will only be 24 when the next World Cup kicks off. As of now, he is the expected starting right-back for the trip to Russia, and that likely won't change.

    The position of left-back will be up for grabs with DaMarcus Beasley out of the equation, but there are very good options to replace him.

    Chris Klute, who will be 28 in four years, is a very strong candidate for the starting role and should definitely be in the squad. However, it seems likely that Fabian Johnson will make the switch to the left side of the defense to remain in the starting lineup since he will only be 30 at the time.

    Rounding out the full-back depth chart will be Timothy Chandler, whom Jurgen Klinsmann seems to have a fondness for. Chandler will provide experience and strength, as well as solid coverage for Yedlin if needed.

Central Defenders

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    Michael Steele/Getty Images

    Starters: Matt Besler and John Brooks

    Substitutes: Omar Gonzalez and Shane O'Neill

     

    Following their showing in Brazil, the American trio of Matt Besler, John Brooks and Omar Gonzalez will definitely be back to play a part in World Cup 2018.

    At 31, Besler will have even more experience and will be the unquestioned leader of the defense. With only one spot left in the back line, choosing Besler's partner will be a very important decision.

    Although Omar Gonzalez has been a regular for the U.S. side for a while now, John Brooks will likely be the second starting center back.

    Brooks is currently on pace to become a complete stud for the America defense, and by the time 2018 gets here, he will be entering the prime of his career.

    Meanwhile, Omar Gonzalez will provide great depth coming off the bench, while Shane O'Neill (20) is also expected to develop into a strong centre-back.

Defensive Midfielders

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Starters: Michael Bradley and Wil Trapp

    Substitute: Maurice Edu

     

    Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman will both be 36 when the next World Cup arrives, and thus will not likely be in the U.S. squad. Simply put, that is not a good thing at all for America.

    Luckily for the USMNT, there are a few options.

    To begin with, Michael Bradley should be playing a much deeper role in four years since he will then be 30 years old. His ability to play a holding role will greatly help the U.S., and his passing will provide structure in the midfield as well.

    Choosing who will play alongside Bradley, however, is a much tougher decision.

    Maurice Edu, who will be 32, is a strong candidate because he has made over 45 caps with the USMNT and is very comfortable in a double pivot. However, Edu has never proved that he can be a solid starter, meaning he will likely be coming off the bench.

    The most promising selection would be Wil Trapp, who is currently playing for the Columbus Crew.

    Trapp will be 25 in 2018 and just entering the prime years of his career. He is already showing signs of brilliance and is expected to develop into a solid player over the next few years.

    A double pivot of Bradley and Trapp may not look that favorable right now, but if potential is realized, they could form a very strong pairing in Russia.

Attacking Midfielders

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Starter: Joe Corona

    Substitutes: Brek Shea, Mix Diskerud and Luis Gil

     

    There is a heavy stream of talent coming through the U.S. midfield in the next few years, and it is expected to be a position of strength in the 2018 World Cup.

    Joe Corona, who will then be 27, should be able to break out and take the starting role playing just in front of the double pivot. The Tijuana midfielder has good vision and passing but is also able to provide a scoring threat at times.

    Mix Diskerud will likely be in the 2018 squad as well. He has yet to really make his mark on the U.S. team, but if he does find his comfort zone, he could be fighting for a starting role in Russia.

    To complete the midfield depth chart, we see Brek Shea and Luis Gil enter the squad. Shea has had a hot-and-cold international career thus far, but many hope that he can find his footing in the next few years while at Stoke.

    Gil, however, is just starting to cause a stir as he is showing great promise at such a young age. Gil and Corona are both budding young talents and could be key players in the next World Cup, each at age 24.

    If Shea is not able to solidify a place in the squad, Junior Flores will definitely be waiting to take his spot, with the young midfielder set to take off over the next few years at Borussia Dortmund.

    Additionally, Gil and Corona's ability to get out wide will give the U.S. more options going forward.

Forwards

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    Matt Dunham/Associated Press

    Starters: Julian Green, Jozy Altidore and Darlington Nagbe

    Substitutes: Terrence Boyd and Aron Johannsson

     

    Unlike the 2014 World Cup, America's attack could prove to be their biggest strength in 2018.

    Jozy Altidore will be 28 in four years and the unquestioned striker for the USMNT. With more seasons to hone his ability, Altidore could become even more deadly in front of goal and will be looking to make his mark in Russia after being injured in Brazil.

    Flanking Altidore will be America's two biggest weapons—Julian Green and Darlington Nagbe.

    Everyone is fully aware of Green at this point. The 19-year-old scored against Belgium in his first-ever World Cup appearance and will be back to star in Russia.

    Few people know of Darlington Nagbe, but they will soon.

    The 23-year-old winger from Liberia is expected to become a U.S. citizen in 2015 and would be a dominant force in the American squad. He is a proven goalscorer who can also use his speed and passing to create chances.

    With the likes of Green and Nagbe flanking Altidore, America's front line will be very dangerous, and likely successful.

    Terrence Boyd and Aron Johannsson will add depth at the striker position, though Juan Agudelo could fight for a spot in the squad as well.

    Although there are no other wingers in the squad, players like Luis Gil and Joe Corona could feature on the flanks if needed.

How Good Can the USMNT Be in 2018?

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    Al Behrman/Associated Press

    Possible XI: Guzan, Yedlin, Brooks, Besler, Johnson, Bradley, Trapp, Corona, Green, Altidore, Nagbe

     

    The question still remains, just how good will America be in the 2018 World Cup? Honestly, that is a loaded question, but it's not totally impossible to imagine the USMNT having a major impact in 2018.

    If players remain healthy and expectations are surpassed, the USMNT could be a very real World Cup competitor with the chance of lifting their first-ever trophy. If some things do go wrong, there is still hope.

    America has the leadership and talent to continue their upward climb on the international stage. After a great run in Brazil, they will be looking to go even further in Russia.

    The sky is the limit for U.S. soccer at this point, but the real work is just beginning.

    Will the USMNT become a real force in the next World Cup, or have they reached their highest level? You tell us below!