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The United States 26 man roster has been announced for the World Cup and it came with quite a few surprises. Gregg Berhalter left Zack Steffen, Ricardo Pepi, and other players out in the cold. Replacing them are former rotational guys such as Haji Wright, Tim Ream, and Shaq Moore. When asked about the inclusion of Ream in particular, Berhalter made an intriguing argument. He began talking about how choosing Ream was an easy decision as his form with Fulham in the best league in the world is impossible to ignore, but it was a point that he made later on that caught my eye. 

"There's a difference between qualifying in Concacaf and playing in the World Cup", Berhalter said.

It's a quote that's simple and obviously true. Of course the World Cup is different than qualifying because they're different tournaments, but peeling things back is where it gets interesting. Concacaf is a unique federation where you need hardnosed players who can take a punch and punch right back while sustaining focus to win. At the World Cup, "joga bonito,", the beautiful game will be on display which leads to a different type of player.

This isn't to say that the team will be playing a different style as Berhalter addressed that as well. "I think it's important that we go over to Qatar and we represent our identity as a team,' Berhalter said about the expectations of the team at the World Cup. "It's not time to change who we are. We're an aggressive team, a high pressing team. We want to use the ball and we're gonna find out if we can be successful doing it." But it is true that the teams they're playing against will have a different style.

Listen below and follow In Soccer We Trust: A CBS Sports Soccer Podcast where your three favorite former USMNT players -- Charlie Davies, Jimmy Conrad and Heath Pearce --  break down the unexpected surprises of the World Cup squad announcement.

It's a stage that calls for world travelers who may not be fit for the Concacaf grind but have gone up against the best of the best. For example, in Champions League Celtic captain Cameron Carter-Vickers has the experience of defending against Ballon D'or winner Karim Benzema and Real Madrid. Ream's Fulham side had the dubious honor of allowing two goals to Erling Haaland and Manchester City, but then again who doesn't allow two goals to Erling Haaland, and that experience is important for succeeding on the games biggest stage. Even Moore has played against current La Liga sides during his time at CD Tenerife.

The World Cup not only gives skill players more room to operate than Concacaf but also calls for a higher level of defending as the forwards are all better than what the federation has to offer. Johnathan David and Canada are a great attack and Hirving Lozano has been key for El Tri but they're not on the level of what players like Ream see on a regular basis. 

It wouldn't be a surprise to see Ream start next to Walker Zimmerman at the World Cup, despite only playing in one qualifying match to kick things off against El Salvador in September of 2021. Aaron Long has struggled and while he has experience next to Zimmerman, he can't provide the same level of security at center back that Ream can. 

Strong in the air and solid with the ball at his feet, Ream will complement Zimmerman being able to be aggressive in his stepping and hopefully not leave large gaps like Long did for teams to take advantage of. As you can see on his radar, Ream's tackling numbers are low but that's not a bad thing for a center back as it also means that his positioning for Fulham this season has been sound.

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Tim Ream's per 90 radar for Fulham in Premier League play this season.  twenty3

Only time will tell if Berhalter made the right decisions on these calls, but considering the stage, and what's being asked of them and the quality of players that the team will face, getting big game players is important. Gareth Bale on Wales, Harry Kane on England, and Iran's Mehdi Taremi alone are players who can make a defense pay and by ensuring that there are experienced players protecting his keeper, Berhalter can try to limit their damage to give the United States a fighting chance to advance from the group stage.

USMNT World Cup squad

  • GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Luton Town/ENG; 8/0; Highlands Ranch, Colo.), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 10/0; Lilburn, Ga.), Matt Turner (Arsenal/ENG; 20/0; Park Ridge, N.J.)
  • DEFENDERS (9): Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic/SCO; 11/0; Southend-on-Sea, England), Sergiño Dest (AC Milan/ITA; 19/2; Almere, Netherlands), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 29/3; Oak Hills, Calif.), Shaq Moore (Nashville SC; 15/1; Powder Springs, Ga.), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 46/1; St. Louis, Mo.), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 29/2; Liverpool, England), Joe Scally (Borussia Mönchengladbach/GER; 3/0; Lake Grove, N.Y.), DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami CF; 75/0; Seattle, Wash.), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 33/3; Lawrenceville, Ga.)
  • MIDFIELDERS (7): Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United/ENG; 24/6; Medford, N.J.), Kellyn Acosta (LAFC; 53/2; Plano, Texas), Tyler Adams (Leeds United/ENG; 32/1; Wappingers Falls, N.Y.), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo/ESP; 12/0; San Diego, Calif.), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 37/9; Little Elm, Texas), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 19/0; London, England), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 32/0; Pico Rivera, Calif.)
  • FORWARDS (7): Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas; 15/7; McKinney, Texas), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 49/11; Mercer Island, Wash.), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 52/21; Hershey, Pa.), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 14/4; Bedford, N.Y.), Josh Sargent (Norwich City/ENG; 20/5; O'Fallon, Mo.), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 25/3; Rosedale, N.Y.), Haji Wright (Antalyaspor/TUR; 3/1; Los Angeles, Calif.)

USMNT World Cup schedule

Monday, Nov. 21: vs. Wales, 2 p.m. ET
Friday, Nov. 25: vs. England, 2 p.m. ET
Tuesday, Nov. 29: vs. Iran, 2 p.m. ET

2022 USMNT World Cup kits now available

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