USMNT call on 28 players for next round of World Cup qualifying

Jun 6, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; United States midfielder Weston Mckennie (8) celebrates with head coach Gregg Berhalter and coaches after scoring a goal in the second half against Mexico during the 2021 CONCACAF Nations League Finals soccer series final match at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 21 (Reuters) – The U.S. men’s national team on Friday called 28 players to training camp ahead of three World Cup qualifying matches, a beefed-up roster that coach Gregg Berhalter said will help the team navigate any possible COVID-19 disruptions.

With six matches remaining, the United States sits in second place in the CONCACAF standings with 15 points after four wins, three draws and one loss. The top three teams in the eight-nation group will earn automatic qualification for the World Cup in Qatar in November and December.

“We have to be very cautious with COVID during this window,” Berhalter told reporters on a call.

“It’s spreading like wildfire and there’s a chance that anyone that’s coming into camp could potentially be excluded based on that … so we purposefully brought a larger number of players.”

“There are instructions going out to the players about how to travel, to make sure we’re all wearing N-95s, and just being really cautious,” he said.

Notable players that were called to camp include Christian Pulisic of Chelsea in England, Weston McKennie of Juventus in Italy and Ricardo Pepi of FC Augsburg in Germany.

Berhalter said the chilly weather forecasts for the three games will give his side a leg up.

“Just like all the times that we go down to Central America and play in the humidity and the heat and sometimes the smog and altitude, this is an opportunity for us to gain an advantage against our opponents,” he said.

“They’re all coming from the equator and it’s going to be really difficult for them to deal with these conditions. They are going to take a couple breaths in and it’s going to hit them like they’ve never been hit before.”

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