The USA's failure to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup had threatened to hamper the sport’s rising popularity across the Atlantic. However, while experienced veterans like Jermaine Jones, Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey are a thing of the past, the next crop of American talent are ready to step into the roles left vacant by their idols as they themselves look to inspire future generations.
Baby faced or fresh faced?
"We all sense that there’s a small nucleus of veterans, and it’s probably one of the first times in a long time - if not the first time - that we’re starting with a bunch of fresh faces,” McKennie told Sports Illustrated earlier this year. “[There are] a bunch of fresh faces at once. It’s kind of like building an actual new foundation of a house that’s been broken down."
Impossible to listen to @PSG_English's Tim Weah and @s04_en's @WMckennie talk about the future of @ussoccer_mnt and not feel optimistic. Both Young Guns guest on Monday's MEN IN BLAZERS SHOW. 5:30 p.m. ET on @NBCSN. pic.twitter.com/YECGk2lvdA— Men in Blazers (@MenInBlazers) September 30, 2018
The USMNT’s new foundation is a youthful one as they look to right the wrongs when Qatar 2022 rolls around. The Bundesliga contingent - including Borussia Dortmund's Christian Pulisic and Werder Bremen's Josh Sargent - could play a key role in forging the future and McKennie will likely be at the heart of it, both literally and figuratively.
A long time to grow
After making his UEFA Champions League debut last month, the Schalke midfielder’s ascension is showing no signs of slowing down. Despite an influx of fresh faces in midfield during the summer in Gelsenkirchen, the Texan native remains a firm favourite under head coach Domenico Tedesco.
The experience being gathered at club level coupled with a core of players that have risen through the US youth ranks together, will be key to shaping the national team’s future. McKennie believes fans have every right to have a positive outlook having already stated that he's "convinced that we’ll be back in 2022".
"Many of the players that we are playing with, we’ve got such a good chemistry," said McKennie in a recent interview with Roger Bennett on Men In Blazers. "I’ve known Christian [Pulisic] since we were 13. Even players who are still cycling in, we’re so familiar with them. To think that we’ve got three-and-a-half years still together, still learning, still competing against high level countries and vibing off each other. Everyone is taking a piece of information from everyone and I think that’ll be one of the biggest things that will help us succeed in the future. Our chemistry."