U.S. men’s national team head coach Gregg Berhalter admitted winning the Nations League and Gold Cup served as a stepping stone for young players to dominate the World Cup qualifiers in the fall.
There will be 14 unforgiving games in the final round of the CONCACAF qualifiers commencing on September 2, and Berhalter will not be taking them lightly.
“Our next step now is World Cup Qualifying in the fall and there's 14 games," Berhalter said. "In World Cup Qualifying there's going to be 14 finals. I think as a coaching staff, one thing that we're pleased with is that these guys have been in this situation before and we're ready to go, ready to handle it.”
The USMNT head coach used both summer tournaments as a test to decide a final roster for the qualifiers. While he is expected to lean on European stars Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Gio Reyna, Berhalter admitted certain Gold Cup performances impressed him to the point of confusion.
“That was the whole objective of this summer. We used two different groups for both tournaments,” he added. “We want to expose these guys to what CONCACAF, competitive games look like.”
“I think it's a big step for this young player pool,” Berhalter said. “We have one of the youngest national teams in the world right now, and for these guys to get used to winning but also believing that they can do it is really important.”
Beyond the talent pool, Berhalter remained impressed with the drive and determination instilled in these players.
“When you go down two minutes into the Nations League Final and you have to come back and then you go down again and have to come back and then you eventually win in overtime, it shows a lot how these guys can stay calm in pressure-packed moments and handle any type of situation.”