(CBS Denver)- The U.S. Men's National team begins its busy summer of matches this Thursday night when the squad takes on Honduras in the CONCACAF Men's Nations League semifinal at Empower Field at Mile High Stadium in Denver. The match kicks off an important summer for Gregg Berhalter's team as they look to build momentum heading into FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifying in September.
After dropping a 2-1 friendly match to Switzerland on Sunday, the team sees forward Christian Pulisic and expected top goalkeeper Zack Steffen join the ranks ahead of Thursday's matchup. The pair's arrival with the team was delayed by their clubs making the Champions League final on Saturday, where Pulisic became the first American to ever make an appearance in club football's biggest stage. With a Champions League winner's medal hanging around his neck, Pulisic arrives to a national team that hasn't had its top group of young players together for many matches yet.
"I want to see all the best players that we have and what that looks like. That's going to be the challenge for Greg Berhalter. What's the right fit, what's the right formation, how do you get all of the most talented players to play in the right way, the right manner to get results," former USMNT player and new CBS soccer analyst Charlies Davies said on a media call last week.
Since Berhalter arrived in late 2018, the U.S. due to injuries or club conflicts, hasn't had the chance to have all of its best young players in camp and on the field at the same time very often. Now, the vast majority of those big names are expected to play Thursday and soccer fans and analysts are hoping for big things from the team on the international stage.
"This is going to be the most similar experience that they're going to get to playing in a major competition come World Cup, Gold Cup time. I'm looking forward to them fielding their best 11, playing against better teams, and seeing how they deal with that," Clint Dempsey, former USMNT star and now CBS analyst said. "Obviously, they're going to be on home soil so it's going to be more of a sign of things to come in the World Cup qualifiers. You have to win those home games. I look to see them get the job done in these two games to make sure they get that confidence going into World Cup qualifying."
The U.S. meets a Honduras team that they have not seen since drawing 1-1 in World Cup qualifying back in September of 2017. Fabian Coito's team has had a rough stretch of form recently, winless in their last four matches including losses to Greece and Guatemala. They're ranked 67th in the world in the latest FIFA World Rankings. Davies says that this match and, potentially, the CONCACAF Nations League final, gives the Americans the opportunity to make a statement to the rest of the world of what the next generation is capable of.
"No doubt this is a massive match. We talk about this team finally coming together on American soil, like Clint said, the best 11. We haven't seen that yet," Davies said. "This is the next generation and an opportunity to show okay this is our statement, this is where we're trying to move, this is our foundation and we have to win Nations League to show, this is where we're trying to go. This is the right direction that we're headed for this generation."
If the U.S. wins on Thursday, they'll draw the winner of Mexico vs. Costa Rica that takes place later that night. A battle with Mexico would offer the chance for some revenge for the 2019 Gold Cup final which the U.S. lost 1-0. If it's Costa Rica, the U.S. would have the chance to avenge a pair of World Cup qualification losses that played a big part in keeping them out of the 2018 tournament.
The U.S. Men's National Team takes on Honduras in the semifinal of the CONCACAF Men's Nations League finals on Thursday, June 3 with kick-off at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Paramount+ and CBS Sports Network.
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