FIFA Men's World Cup
World Cup Now: How can USA fix its striker problem for 2026?
FIFA Men's World Cup

World Cup Now: How can USA fix its striker problem for 2026?

Published Dec. 3, 2022 1:12 p.m. ET

The United States was eliminated from the World Cup on Friday with a 3-1 loss to the Netherlands at Khalifa International Stadium.

At the center of that loss was a glaring hole at striker, something that's been a problem for the U.S. men's team for several years. How can it address that problem before the next World Cup in 2026, which will be played on home soil? 

Former U.S. national team players Jimmy Conrad, Cobi Jones and Sacha Kljestan shared their thoughts on "World Cup Now."

Kljestan: Can we develop a guy that has a sense for scoring goals? No. This is the hardest thing to do in soccer; it's the reason strikers get sold for $100 million and are the highest-paid players. Putting the ball in the back of the net is the only thing that matters in soccer when you want to win the game.


Can we develop that? Can we start some type of striker program where we develop that? I don't think so. It's something that's inside somebody and they're going to do everything possible to make it. Maybe there's some 16-year-old that's going to train right now and four years from now he's going to be our starting striker. I don't know.

Jones: We have to think about it a little differently. When we have opportunities to have that traditional No. 9 — the bigger guy that can post up and score a few goals — the mindset has to be, "OK, let's bring him into the national team, let's get him some experience, let's put him out there for a few times." If he doesn't score in his first few games, that's OK! It doesn't matter — keep bringing him back.

And then as he's seen, it gives more people someone to look up to and say, "That's how you do it, that's how you play." Right now, we're playing a style where there is no No. 9, and it's difficult for someone to say, "Yeah, that's how I should play" because we haven't seen it. We have the False 9. Can we get someone that posts up? That's a good thing to do. If you can take a few hits and turn on someone and put the ball in the net, that's great.

Conrad: It seems like there's a bigger emphasis on a certain style of players these days, where we are looking for those tweeners: those wingers that can do multiple things or a striker that can drop into the midfield and do things as opposed to developing a striker that can run the channels, that can hold the ball up. Some countries have it, but is that exactly what we're looking for? I don't know. But once you identify that player, when do you bring them in and how do you develop them?

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