Under-the-radar US soccer players for the 2022 World Cup cycle

By Luke Mullin
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the massive failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, the future of US soccer remains bright as some of its best talents are beginning to realize their full potential.

The big picture: Young stars such as Christian Pulisic and Tyler Adams are already embedded in the team and other, more unknown young Americans will join them for the 2022 cycle.

Jonathan Amon: 20-year-old winger with lots of untapped potential, Amon provides a burst of pace and skilled play in the wide areas.

  • Danish Delight: Amon has spent his entire professional career with Danish club Nordsjaelland. He broke into the first team last season and got 10 matches at the highest level and was set for a bigger role this season. Injuries have hurt Amon, but he still managed to play 25 games in league competition and has scored four goals.
  • 2022 outlook: Amon could be one of the US’s top talents abroad, with speed and technical ability to boot, but he’ll need to move past mediocre performances in the Danish league. The level of competition is good, but if Amon is to play a part, he’ll need to begin dominating the league, instead of just blending into it.

Paxton Pomykal: Creative midfielder has impressed in the MLS, with three goal contributions in nine games for FC Dallas this season.

  • Present and future captain: Just 19 years old, Pomykal had a few random appearances for FC Dallas prior to the 2019 season, but has come into his own as a starting midfielder. Providing creative passing and attacking qualities from the midfield has been his hallmark and he is a leader too, currently captaining the US U-20 World Cup team.
  • 2022 outlook: Staying with FC Dallas and establishing himself as a week-in, week-out starter is Pomykal’s top priority. At 5-foot-8, he needs physical midfielders around him to tick but could provide an important dynamic spark if called upon. He has the opportunity to grow in the Dallas team, and is one of the league’s top prospects.

Andrija Novakovich: Flashy striker could realize true goal-scoring threat after bagging nine in the Netherlands this year.

  • Long journey: It hasn’t been easy for Novakovich to realize his full potential, as he’s spent time at three clubs in the past four seasons. A Reading player, he hasn’t broken into the English league championship team yet, but dominated the second division of Dutch soccer last year.
  • 2022 outlook: Nine goals in 30 appearances in the Dutch first division this year is a good return, but it remains to be seen if Reading is the right place for Novakovich. If he can manage to gain consistent time at the club, his development should be fun to watch, but if he is continually loaned out again, that progress could stagnate.

Reggie Cannon: Team USA hasn’t had solid fullbacks in a while, but Cannon could change that. A big-time defender already, Cannon is solid defensively and has room to grow.

  • Big-time player: Despite being just 20 years old, Cannon is already one of the most important players in the FC Dallas team. He made 33 starts last season and played the 12th-most minutes of any player in the league. With 13 appearances already this year, Cannon is getting a lot of playing time, which is crucial for young player’s development.
  • 2022 outlook: Under US coach Gregg Berhalter’s system, dominant youth player Tyler Adams is the go-to right back, blocking Cannon’s starting chances. However, depth at fullback is very weak, and with three international appearances for the US already, Cannon could solidify his claim to the backup spot with continued consistent performances in the MLS.

Cameron Carter-Vickers: The center back of the future is becoming the center back for the present too. Owned by one of the top clubs in the world, Carter-Vickers has a golden opportunity to break into a big-name team.

  • Long name, big game: Carter-Vickers is well-known for his potential, which US soccer fans have been following for years. His parent club is Champions League finalist Tottenham, but he hasn’t managed to get close to the first team yet. Instead, loans in the English championship have been successful, helping grow Carter-Vickers as a player.
  • 2022 outlook: After 30 games with Swansea City last season, Carter-Vickers is ready to become a starting defender now. The likes of John Brooks and Geoff Cameron are still the team’s top defenders, but if he can manage to get time at the Premier League level, don’t be surprised to see Carter-Vickers as a key player in the 2022 cycle.

Ben Sweat: Older, more savvy defender, could be the answer at left back, as his 25-plus appearances in back-to-back seasons with NYCFC show consistency and dedication.

  • NY state of mind: Once a college player, Sweat moved on to the second division of American soccer before finally getting a chance with New York City FC. He was a consistent starter in both 2017 and 2018 and is once again a big part of the team this season.
  • 2022 outlook: Left back is the weakest spot in the whole team and any solution is a good one. Sweat has nine MLS assists in the past three seasons, production which few Americans can rival, and now has two international appearances under his belt as well. While he’s not exactly one for the future, Sweat could be an immediate solution for one of Berhalter’s problems.

Bottom line: US soccer’s 2022 World Cup qualifying squad will likely have a mix of veterans and youth talent, with the potential for some new players to join the mix. Young, exciting players such as Cannon and Pomykal are ones to keep an eye on, as they could turn great domestic seasons into chances for Team USA.