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20 Americans in line for World Cup qualifying debuts

2021 Aug 26, 22:33,
Chelsea's Christian Pulisic, left, jumps for a header with Villarreal's Pau Torres during the UEFA Super Cup soccer match between Chelsea and Villarreal at Windsor Park in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021. Photo: AP

 Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, Gio Reyna and Zack Steffen are among 20 players who could make World Cup qualifying debuts when the United States opens at El Salvador on Sept. 2.

Christian Pulisic was on the 26-man roster announced Thursday after missing Chelsea’s match at Arsenal last weekend following a positive COVID test. He is among six veterans of the 2017 team that failed to qualify for the World Cup, ending a streak of seven straight appearances for the US Holdovers include Kellyn Acosta, John Brooks, Sebastian Lletget, Tim Ream and DeAndre Yedlin.

The U.S. roster will average 24 years, 43 days, and 18 international appearances when training starts Monday in Nashville, Tennessee. Under the compacted schedule caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the US travels to El Salvador on Wednesday for the opener the following day, hosts Canada in Nashville on Sept. 5 and plays Honduras in San Pedro Sula on Sept. 8.

There will be three more qualifiers from Oct. 7-13, two from Nov. 12-16 and three each in January and March.

The top three teams in North and Central America and the Caribbean qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and the No. 4 team advances to a playoff for a berth. The final round was expanded from six nations to eight because of the pandemic and the start delayed a year.

Ten of the players are on teams that qualified for the European Champions League, led by Pulisic of defending champion Chelsea. He is joined by Brendon Aaronson, Tyler Adams, John Brooks, Sergiño Dest, Weston McKennie, Jordan Pefok, Gio Reyna, Zack Steffen and Tim Weah. Two others on Champions League teams did not make the roster: Bayern Munich defender Chris Richards and Club Brugge midfielder Owen Otasowie.

Dallas forward Ricardo Pepi is the only player with no previous international experience, The 18-year-old, who scored the winning penalty kick for Major League Soccer’s All-Stars against Liga MX on Wednesday night, played for the U.S. at the 2019 Under-17 World Cup along with George Bello and Reyna. Pepi also is eligible to play for Mexico.

Pepi and Konrad de la Fuente are the only players who were not on the roster for either the CONCACAF Nations League final four in June or the CONCACAF Gold Cup later in the summer. De la Fuente’s only appearance was in November 2020 at Wales.

Nine players are from MLS, six are based in England, three in Germany and two in France.

Known as Jordan Siebatcheu when he made his U.S. debut last March, the forward now wants to be known as Jordan Pefok, the USSF said. His full name is Theoson-Jordan Siebatcheu Pefok.

Defender Tim Ream is on the roster after leaving Fulham’s match at Hull on Saturday with a hip injury and Aaronson after coming off late with an ankle injury in RB Salzburg’s Champions League win at Denmark’s Brøndby on Wednesday, when he scored his second goal of the playoff round.

Twenty-three players can dress for each game.

Among those missing are: New York Red Bulls defender Aaron Long, who tore his right Achilles tendon on May 15; Valencia midfielder Yunus Musah, sidelined since injuring an ankle last month during preseason; D.C. midfielder Paul Arriola, who injured a hamstring on Aug. 18 at New England; Columbus forward Gyasi Zardes, who injured his left hamstring on Aug. 18 at the New York Red Bulls; Orlando forward Daryl Dike, who has not played since a Gold Cup semifinal on July 29; and defender Matt Miazga, who transferred to Spain’s Alavés on Aug. 20.

The roster:

Goalkeepers: Ethan Horvath (Nottingham Forest, England), Zack Steffen (Manchester City, England), Matt Turner (New England).

Defenders: George Bello (Atlanta), John Brooks (Wolfsburg, Germany), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona, Spain), Mark McKenzie (Genk, Belgium), Tim Ream (Fulham, England), Antonee Robinson (Fulham, England), Miles Robinson (Atlanta), James Sands (New York City), DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray, Turkey), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville).

Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (Colorado), Tyler Adams (Leipzig, Germany), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Juventus, Italy), Cristian Roldan (Seattle).

Forwards: Brenden Aaronson (Salzburg, Austria), Konrad de la Fuente (Olympique Marseille, France), Jordan Pefok (Young Boys, Switzerland), Ricardo Pepi (Dallas), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea, England), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund, Germany), Josh Sargent (Norwich, England), Tim Weah (Lille, France).


World Cup qualifying El Salvador Arsenal
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