USA vs. England could change world’s perception of American soccer

AL RAYYAN, Qatar — This United States Men’s National Team is on a mission to change the way the world views American football.

And what better way to change your mind than beating England, favorites to win it all, in the World Cup?

The USMNT has a chance to do so on Friday when they face England at Al Rayyan Stadium in their second group stage match (2 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app).

Gregg Berhalter’s group is fearless and ambitious. He has an undeniable swagger and confidence. Much has been said and written about the fact that they are the second youngest team in this tournament (Ghana are a bit younger) and that only one player – defender DeAndre Yedlin – has experience of the World Cup. Now that they have one game under their belt – a 1-1 draw with Wales earlier this week – the Americans have a big game in Game 2, against big, bad England.

On Thursday, USA captain Tyler Adams acknowledged his team had a chance to make a statement here.

“I think this is obviously a huge opportunity to accelerate the impact that we can have,” Adams said. “It’s the high pressures, [high] prime times to step on the court against some of these guys. We respect them, it’s probably a mutual respect between the two teams. When you get a result in a game like this, you know, people start to respect the Americans a little more.”

Star winger Christian Pulisic added: “We have to prove ourselves. We may not have been at the level of some of these world powers over the past decades – but we’ve had good teams with a lot of heart. in us. But I think if we can take the next step with a successful World Cup, it could change a lot of things.”

In Monday’s tournament opener against Wales, Berhalter’s starting line-up included 10 players who play in Europe. Only central defender Walker Zimmerman, from Nashville SC, plays in MLS. Although he hasn’t ruled out playing overseas one day.

The English Premier League, where Adams plays for Leeds United, has been incredibly popular in the United States for 15-20 years. It’s fascinated and influenced young players, especially of this generation, who felt comfortable leaving their homes in America as teenagers with big plans to play for Europe’s top teams. That’s exactly what many have done with Pulisic being the only player to have played in and won a Champions League final.

Adams grew up in New York and played for Red Bulls academy before later joining Bundesliga side RB Leipzig, where he became the first USMNT player to score in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals . After three and a half years in Germany, he joined Leeds United in July 2022, where he played alongside his American teammate Brenden Aaronson.

Adams said on Thursday he grew up watching and admiring Theirry Henry playing for the Red Bulls and Arsenal. It was easy for him to tune in to Premier League games on Saturday mornings and dream of doing so one day.

“I remember telling my mum at a young age that I wanted to play in England,” Adams said. “There will always be something special in the Premier League. There always has been and I think there always will be.”

Added Berhalter, who played for Crystal Palace in the early 2000s: “Everyone now in America seems to have a [Premier League] team they support. It’s an incredible leap. We’re really proud that our players play in this league and for me it’s similar to the NFL in terms of dominance and business orientation.”

Having so many Americans abroad helps make World Cup opponents more familiar and gives each team little advantages here and there. Japan, one of the Cinderellas at this tournament, upset Germany 2-1 with eight guys playing in the Bundesliga. USA have six players in the EPL – will that make a difference against England?

“I don’t think that makes it predictable by any means,” Adams said. “You’re going to play against a lot of quality players, no matter how many times you’ve played against them before. They’re going to be able to adapt to the game and what you’re doing and find solutions.

“But that being said, it’s nice to have that experience and to play some of those great games against some of the best teams against some of the best English players. And to have that opportunity to learn, to grow, to develop and to understand the game differently. I would say that international football is completely different from the club game, but to have the possibility of playing against some of these players [in club games] will be helpful.”

Adams dismisses the idea that the USMNT would be intimidated by a team like England – in fact, he said he wasn’t intimidated by anything “other than the Spiders”. He just hopes this particular game shows that the Americans are capable contenders and “that American football is growing and developing in a good way.”

Now, if the United States can beat England, a team filled with the likes of Harry Kane, Bukayo Saka and Jack Grealish, who Premier League-loving Americans cheer on at the weekend, what kind of message will that send? it at home and to the rest of the world?

“That would mean a lot,” Adams said. “We’ve been trying to move this project forward for a few years and we’re moving in the right direction. So I think ultimately capitalizing would mean we’re continuing to move in the right direction.”

Berhalter added: “We haven’t achieved anything as a group on the world stage. We have to use this World Cup to establish ourselves and then hopefully move on to the next World Cup and do the same.”

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Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and football for FOX Sports. She previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of “Strong Like a Woman”, released in the spring of 2022 to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @LakenLitman.


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