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The U.S. will field one of its youngest teams ever at this year's FIFA World Cup

Christian Pulisic, center, with Tyler Adams, just left, Gio Reyna, far left, and Sergiño Dest, right, pictured during ahead of a friendly match between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia in September. All four players made the World Cup roster.
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Christian Pulisic, center, with Tyler Adams, just left, Gio Reyna, far left, and Sergiño Dest, right, pictured during ahead of a friendly match between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia in September. All four players made the World Cup roster.

With ten days to go until the 2022 men's FIFA World Cup begins in Qatar, U.S. Soccer has announced the 26-man roster for the national team.

The United States men's national soccer team (USMNT) is making their return to the World Cup after its embarrassing failure to qualify for the 2018 tournament. It was the first time the U.S. had missed the World Cup since the 1980s.

Now, in a quest to turn the page, the U.S. will feature one of its youngest World Cup teams ever, handing its reputation over to a new generation of players.

"This generation hasn't yet defined themselves. And we have the opportunity to begin to define ourselves at this World Cup," said team manager Gregg Berhalter in a Wednesday interview on the podcast Men in Blazers.

The USMNT's first match comes Nov. 21 against Wales, followed by a marquee Nov. 25 matchup with England, after which comes a Nov. 29 match with Iran to round out the team's difficult draw in the group stage.

The team's biggest star is Christian Pulisic, the standout 24-year-old forward who has long borne the hopes of a USMNT turnaround — along with the nickname "Captain America." Pulisic, who plays for Chelsea, shone during the World Cup qualifying matches: His five goals included a hat trick in a 5-1 rout of Panama earlier this year.

Other young stars who the team will turn to for offensive production are Weston McKennie, the 24-year-old Juventus midfielder, and a pair of Leeds United youngsters – midfielder Tyler Adams, 23, and Brenden Aaronson, 22, a forward whose energetic play style has made him a favorite with fans.

"We're an aggressive team, a high-pressing team. We want to use the ball. And we're going to find out if we can be successful doing that," Berhalter said in a panel interview after the roster announcement.

The team is generational in another way, too – several players are the sons of star players from generations past. The 19-year-old Gio Reyna is the son of two U.S. soccer standouts, former USMNT captain Claudio Reyna and six-time USWNT starter Danielle Egan. And Timothy Weah, the 22-year-old forward for French club Lille, is the son of George Weah, one of the greatest African soccer players of all time who has since become Liberia's president.

At an average age of 25 years and 175 days, the U.S. will have one of the youngest rosters in the World Cup. Because of the tournament miss in 2018, only one player on the young squad has prior World Cup experience – defender DeAndre Yedlin, who came in as a substitute in three games in Brazil in 2014.

Perhaps the biggest snub on the roster was goalkeeper Zack Steffen, who had entered the qualifying rounds as the USMNT's top goalkeeper.

But he struggled with injuries, and during the qualifying matches last year and earlier this year, he battled with Arsenal's Matt Turner for playing time.

Now, Turner is expected to make the start at keeper.

Two other notable omissions were the 19-year-old forward Ricardo Pepi, who had scored three goals in the U.S. qualifying matches, and Paul Arriola, an FC Dallas veteran.

The full roster of 26 includes three goalkeepers, nine defenders, seven midfielders and seven forwards.

Goalkeepers: Ethan Horvath, Sean Johnson, Matt Turner

Defenders: Cameron Carter-Vickers, Sergiño Dest, Aaron Long, Shaq Moore, Tim Ream, Antonee Robinson, Joe Scally, DeAndre Yedlin, Walker Zimmerman

Midfielders: Brenden Aaronson, Kellyn Acosta, Tyler Adams, Luca de la Torre, Weston McKennie, Yunus Musah, Cristian Roldan

Forwards: Jesús Ferreira, Jordan Morris, Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna, Josh Sargent, Tim Weah, Haji Wright

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Becky Sullivan has reported and produced for NPR since 2011 with a focus on hard news and breaking stories. She has been on the ground to cover natural disasters, disease outbreaks, elections and protests, delivering stories to both broadcast and digital platforms.