As a 44-times-capped United States international in his own playing days, Berhalter can relate firsthand to his players’ emotions amid the “difficult conversations” around roster calls and cuts, and emphasized that no one’s status for the final World Cup is being determined by their involvement or lack thereof in the June camp.
“From a coach’s side, you just want to make sure that you’re communicating to the players, that they understand the reasoning for this,” he said. “I understand where the guys are at, I feel for them. And again, this camp isn’t determining who’s on the team. We’re going to have much harder conversations after September, and that’s where it’s gonna get a lot more difficult, I think for everybody. But we’re focused on creating a strong group. Guys that are supporting each other, because I know the best way to perform well at the World Cup is to have a strong team spirit.”
While FIFA has not officially expanded World Cup roster sizes from the usual 23 players, Berhalter said that he and his staff are optimistic that they will eventually have 26 slots to work with come November.
He gave the impression that most of the spots on the plane to Qatar this fall are accounted for, though some areas on the depth chart are ripe for late runs from dark horses and bubble candidates who shine at the club level.
“The way I look at it, we are building something, there’s a core group that we are building and we are developing and we’ve done a good job of that. But around the edges, there is room,” he said. “Guys in form and doing a great job, I can expect them to make a case to be on the roster. And the strange thing about the [World Cup] roster date is I think it’s something like eight days or nine days before our first game [in November], or something crazy like that. So, there could be cases where some positions, it goes down to the very end.”