Copa América
2024 Copa América: Predicting the USMNT's 23-man roster
Copa América

2024 Copa América: Predicting the USMNT's 23-man roster

Updated Apr. 23, 2024 10:02 a.m. ET

This latest version of FOX Sports’ 2024 Copa América roster prediction for the United States men’s national team has a "good-news, bad-news" feel to it. 

Let’s start with the bad. Starting right back Sergiño Dest’s availability is in major doubt for coach Gregg Berhalter’s 23-man Copa squad after Dest suffered what his Dutch pro club, PSV Eindhoven, called "what appears to be a serious knee injury" that is expected to sideline the 23-year-old for an "extended period." The 2024 Copa América kicks off eight weeks from Thursday. 

U.S. Soccer had four other players in Berhalter’s lineup for last month’s Concacaf Nations League win over Mexico who are also either injured (Tyler Adams) or not playing regularly (Tim Ream, Matt Turner, Tim Weah) for their clubs. Not good.

As deflating as Dest’s apparent prognosis is, it’s hardly all gloom and doom around the USMNT. Gio Reyna has now started consecutive Premier League games for Nottingham Forest and performed well in both. Christian Pulisic has a career-best 13 goals and 3,169 minutes this season for AC Milan. Elsewhere in Italy, JuventusWeston McKennie remains one of the top midfielders in all of Serie A. 


Nations League hero Haji Wright keeps scoring; the big striker netted a stoppage-time equalizer for Coventry City against Manchester United in Sunday’s eventual extra-time loss in the FA Cup semifinals. And center back Chris Richards, who recently missed three straight Premier League matches for Crystal Palace, was a defensive monster in Sunday’s 5-2 win over West Ham in his return.

What does all of this mean for this summer as far as Copa invitations go? Let’s dive in. 

Lineup locks

Tyler Adams, 25, Bournemouth (England) 
Weston McKennie, 25, Juventus (Italy) 
Gio Reyna, 21, Nottingham Forest (England) 
Christian Pulisic, 25, AC Milan (Italy) 
Chris Richards, 24, Crystal Palace (England) 
Antonee "Jedi" Robinson, 26, Fulham (England) 
D/F Tim Weah, 24, Juventus (Italy)

Starting Adams in the Nations League decider vs. El Tri knowing that the midfield destroyer could only last a half after recovering from multiple hamstring surgeries underscores how crucial Adams is in Berhalter’s eyes. As of now, there’s no indication that the back spasms that have kept Adams out of Bournemouth’s last four games will prevent him from occupying a central role for his country this summer. 

The big news here is Reyna. The rangy playmaker’s star turn off the bench last month against Jamaica earned him a start over Yunus Musah for the Nations League final. Reyna then scored the goal that sealed the dos-a-cero victory, giving the Americans their tournament three-peat. Combined with his growing stature for Forest and Musah’s up-and-down campaign (0 goals, 2 assists in 38 games across all competitions) for Milan, a central midfield role with Adams and McKennie has suddenly become Reyna’s to lose.

Last Friday, Weah made his first start for Juve since Feb. 12. But he still projects as an automatic selection with the national team, either at his usual spot at right wing or perhaps now in Dest’s vacated fullback position — one Weah has filled often in Italy this season. Like Dest, Weah is an attacking right back, which Berhalter might prefer to the stay-at-home style of Joe Scally. Scally had a rough 45 minutes vs. the Reggae Boyz and appears to have lost his starting job in the Bundesliga. Yet his value to the USMNT increases in the absence of Dest, with Scally also able to deputize for left back Antonee Robinson if Jedi is out. Moving Weah back a line would open up a slot for another attacker, too.

Potential starters 

Folarin Balogun, 22, Monaco (France) 
Johnny Cardoso, 22, Real Betis (Spain) 
Cameron Carter-Vickers, 25, Celtic (Scotland) 
Yunus Musah, 21, AC Milan (Italy) 
Tim Ream, 36, Fulham (England) 
Miles Robinson, 26, Cincinnati (MLS)
Josh Sargent, 23, Norwich City (England)
GK Matt Turner, 29, Nottingham Forest (England) 
Joe Scally, 21, Borussia Mönchengladbach (Germany)
F/W Haji Wright, 26, Coventry City (England)

In a matter of weeks, Wright (18 goals in 45 appearances for Coventry in 2023-24) went from being left off Berhalter’s original Nations League roster to starting the finale over both Balogun and Ricardo Pepi.  Based on current form, Wright could be the leading candidate to spearhead the Yanks' attack right now. His stiffest competition is probably Sargent, who has 15 goals in just 24 appearances in the English second tier.

After disappointing seasons in Europe, Balogun and Pepi figure to vie for the final striker spot. That said, the versatility of Sargent and Wright — who each have vast experience deployed wide — could in theory allow Berhalter to take all four if Pepi isn’t designated for Olympic duty instead.

Central defenders Ream and Robinson will again contend for the still-open spot next to Richards. So could Carter-Vickers, who missed the March games with an injury, or Mark McKenzie, who’s been a rock all year in Belgium. Cardoso remains Adams’ likeliest understudy. Finally, Berhalter’s Nations League choices confirmed that Turner remains the coach’s No. 1 keeper even if he hasn’t pulled the gloves on for Forest since February. 

Rounding out the Copa América squad 

Brenden Aaronson, 23, Union Berlin (Germany) 
GK Drake Callender, 26, Inter Miami (MLS) 
Luca de la Torre, 25, Celta Vigo (Spain) 
GK Ethan Horvath, 28, Cardiff City (Wales) 
Kristoffer Lund, 21, Palermo (Italy) 
M/F Malik Tillman, 21, PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands)

Aaronson has started Union’s last five Bundesliga games but hasn’t had a good season overall and was only added to the March squad after De la Torre got hurt. He’s also now playing central midfield (rather than wing) in Berlin, and there’s lots of competition there for the U.S.

So it’s possible that Aaronson or even Tillman could be sacrificed for an extra forward, or if Berhalter opts to replace Dest with a full-time right back. If it’s the latter, a 2022 World Cup vet such as Shaq Moore or DeAndre Yedlin could be preferred to the comparatively inexperienced, Olympics-bound Bryan Reynolds. There is little reason to think that natural lefty Kristoffer Lund won’t stick as Jedi’s backup, as he has consistently since late last year. 

With Sargent healthy again, Wright’s recent exploits for club and country means that Balogun and Pepi aren’t necessarily guaranteed a place on the 23, either. While Pepi’s goals (9) to minutes (693) ratio in a super-sub role is off the charts for PSV, it doesn’t change the fact that the Texan started just twice and played the equivalent of 7.7 full matches for his club all season long. A starring role in Paris ahead of next season could be a godsend if PSV green-lights it and Pepi wants to go.

But Pepi has still outscored Balogun, who has eight goals in 27 Ligue 1 and Coupe de France games. If Sargent or Wright has leapfrogged Balogun as Berhalter’s center forward du jour, could Pepi be considered the more dangerous option off the bench?

In reserve or Olympics-bound

Paxten Aaronson, 20, Vitesse Arnhem (Netherlands) 
Gianluca Busio, 21, Venezia (Italy)
Cade Cowell, 20, Chivas Guadalajara (Mexico)
Jesus Ferreira, 23, FC Dallas (MLS)
Lennard Maloney, 24, Heidenheim (Germany) 
Duncan McGuire, 23, Orlando City (MLS)
D Shaq Moore, 27, Nashville (MLS)
Mark McKenzie, 24, Genk (Belgium)
Aidan Morris, 22, Columbus Crew (MLS)
M/ F Kevin Paredes, 20, Wolfsburg (Germany)
Ricardo Pepi, 21, PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands) 
Bryan Reynolds, 22, Westerlo (Belgium) 
D/M James Sands, 23, New York City (MLS) 
GK, Patrick Schulte, 23, Columbus Crew (MLS) 
GK Gaga Slonina, 19, Eupen (Belgium)
GK Zack Steffen, 28, Colorado Rapids (MLS) 
Tanner Tessmann, 22, Venezia (Italy)
Auston Trusty, 25, Sheffield United (England) 
Brandon Vazquez, 25, Monterrey (Mexico)
D DeAndre Yedlin, 30, Cincinnati (MLS) 
M/F Alex Zendejas, 25, Club América (Mexico) 
Walker Zimmerman, 30, Nashville (MLS) 

Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has covered United States men's and women's national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.

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