It is the moment Timothy Weah and some of United States men's international team teammates have been dreaming about for a decade: being at the heart of an American side that gets back to the promised land of international football. Whatever the results over the coming international break when the USMNT takes on Mexico and then heads to Jamaica (a match you can find on Paramount+), nobody's fate will be decided but this promises to be a crucial moment for Gregg Berhalter's bright young things.
With the third round of CONCACAF qualifying not even at the halfway stage yet, it is surely too soon for Berhalter and his staff to start making plans for next year's winter World Cup in Qatar, there are only three points separating the USA in second with Panama in fourth, a spot that brings with it a birth in what would be an extremely competitive intercontinental qualifier.
But Weah and the many other youngsters that make up a burgeoning core of the US squad have been waiting for this moment for a long time. After all, the Lille forward has been friends with Barcelona's Sergino Dest since he was 11 -- "I know him like my own brother" -- and in all that time these are the moments they have been dreaming of.
"We always dreamed of making it this far," Weah told CBS Sports, speaking after signing terms with New Balance. "Before the dream was playing for the first team. We're doing that now.
"The next is the World Cup. And hopefully, God willing, we can qualify for the World Cup and do well.
"It's so surreal because even when when when we're playing the games I think some of us forget that we're qualifying for a World Cup. It kind of slips my mind sometimes but it's a great feeling. It's an honor. It's a dream come true. It hasn't really hit me yet.
"But hopefully we just get the job done, you know, do what we have to do. We have the whole country on our back. We want to do it for ourselves and the younger generation and the older generation who didn't get the chance to play in the last World Cup."
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Berhalter's near-three year tenure at the head of the national side has seen a determined effort to blood the best youngsters from the outset; the side that beat Costa Rica 2-1 in Columbus last month had the youngest average age of any XI to represent the USA in a World Cup qualifier at 22 years, 61 days. None of the outfield players were older than 24 and the likes of Weah, Yunus Musah and Ricardo Pepi were trusted from the outset to secure three critical points after defeat in Panama.
The team heads into this month's qualifiers without two of their brightest young stars. Dest, who scored the equalizer against Costa Rica, misses out with pain in his lower back while Giovanni Reyna has not yet shaken off the hamstring issue that also sidelined him last month. Though their absences will doubtless be felt, Berhalter is not short of alternatives with Borussia Monchengladbach's Joe Scally in line for a first cap at fullback while the likes of Weah, Brenden Aaronson and the returning Christian Pulisic will be vying for spots in the frontline.
"I feel that it's great for team chemistry that there's rotation in the squad and guys are doing well when they come in," said Weah. "We have squad depth and a lot of the guys can step up to the plate when the big hitters aren't here. It's a great team, no egos at all. The chemistry is great.
"We just have to continue building on that. The guys are happy being in camp, I'm happy when I go. It's definitely different to club football, much more comfortable there."
Friday's clash with Mexico could yet be among the most significant matches the US plays in the Octagonal. A third win over El Tri in 2021 would catapult Berhalter's side to top spot and offer welcome wiggle room ahead of 2022's fixtures. Weah figures to play a prominent role at TQL Stadium with Pulisic yet to fully recover from the ankle injury he picked up in September's win over Honduras.
"When you're growing up in the national team system, your dream is to play against Mexico," Weah said. "We know the hype around it. We just have to be ready. Now most of the boys have have loads of experience in CONCACAF, you know, going away to Panama losing there, coming back home and beating Costa Rica, which wasn't easy, was great.
"So I think we just have to pick up from that momentum last game, and just continue. Hopefully we can get Christian [Pulisic] back and healthy and get the business [done]."
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