The US are back at the World Cup but they face a tough test in their World Cup Group.
Who do Bettors Favor?
Although the USMNT is back at the top level of international football the best-rated online sportsbooks don’t give them much hope of progressing far. Bettors favor a Group Stage exit at -125 while they are rated as +175 to get as far as the Round of 16. If you think they can get to the last eight, you can wager on the team at +800 and for those looking for the biggest odds, USMNT to win the World Cup is +10000.
|USA v Wales|
The Story of USMNT Qualification
The path to the World Cup was a twisting one as the USMNT took the scenic route to qualification. They started the CONCACAF Third Qualifying Round poorly, drawing with El Salvador and Canada, but wins over Honduras and Jamaica appeared to have settled their nerves.
They continued in strong form at home, beating Costa Rica, El Salvador and Mexico, but on the road it was a different story as they suffered defeat in Panama and dropped two more points against Jamaica before losing 2-0 in Canada. They rounded off their qualifying campaign with a 2-0 loss in Costa Rica but qualified on goal difference despite that disappointing defeat.
How Strong is the USMNT Squad?
As their rollercoaster qualification campaign suggests, this will not be the strongest USMNT squad to ever enter a World Cup. Matt Turner, the second-string goalkeeper at Arsenal looks a solid number one, and there are a couple of solid fullbacks in Sergino Dest and Antonee Robinson, but overall the defense looks no more than average by international standards.
In midfield, much will depend on the inconsistent but talented Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah, who will be crucial when it comes to retaining possession. Their real strength lies in the wide positions, where Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic will be the main attacking threat, supported by Giovanna Reyna, Timothy Weah and Brenden Aaronson.
Their big weakness, however, is in the striker positions. Jesus Ferreira, Josh Sargent and Ricardo Pepi have all had their chances and failed to convince, and if the team are to meet or exceed expectations in this tournament, they can’t rely on Pulisic to score all their goals.
USA v Wales, 11-21-2022
We know from previous World Cups that five points get a team to the knockout stages, while four points is effectively a coin toss, so with a tough second game on their schedule, it is crucial for USMNT that they start strong and target all three points against Wales in their opener.
That may be easier said than done, however. The two teams are relatively similar in that they don’t score many goals and have one outstanding star in the squad. Gareth Bale, however, is considerably more accomplished at international level than Pulisic and is a lethal goal threat from long range.
It is going to be tough for the USMNT to contain Bale and to breach the relatively strong Welsh defense, and while a win would be a great start, I don’t see the USMNT being able to get one here in their first game, and Greg Berhalter will be wary of pushing too hard and taking the risk of a defeat.
USA v England, 11-25-2022
This is a tricky game to weigh up. On the one hand there is no comparison in FIFA rankings or recent record. England reached the semi-finals at the 2018 World Cup and the final at Euro 2021 and have a squad that is full of highly rated young stars, mainly from the English Premier League.
Yet England have been in a form slump in recent games, losing home and away to Hungary in the Nations League, and the team has a history of struggling against opponents who are familiar with their style of play. Given that many of the USMNT play their football in England, this might be a trickier game than Gareth Southgate’s team are expecting and if the USMNT are to cause an upset it could be here.
USA v Iran, 11-29-2022
Odds are not yet available on the final USMNT game, but this may be the game that Berhalter and his staff are most worried about. It is a fixture that always has an extra edge, and, as they were in 1998, Iran will relish being the underdogs.
Unlike the other two opponents they will face in this Group, Iran will be relatively comfortable with the conditions in Qatar, so the USMNT may feel like the away team here, which given their poor record on the road (no wins in the last eight) is a concern. They will be the favorites for this one, but I would be wary of backing them at short odds in what could be an extremely tricky encounter.