PREVIEW: U.S. Men’s National Team Kicks Off “Octagonal” as World Cup Qualifying Quest Begins in El Salvador

El Salvador-USA Marks First of 14-Match, Seven-Month Qualifying Schedule; Thursday’s Kickoff from Estadio Cuscatlan in San Salvador Set for 10:05 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network, Paramount+ and Universo

CHICAGO (Sept. 1, 2021)—After nearly four years, the U.S. Men’s National Team will embark on the quest to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar when it faces El Salvador on Thursday, Sept. 2 in San Salvador. El Salvador-USA marks the beginning of a grueling seven-month journey for the USMNT through the rigors of Concacaf, where it will play 14 matches against seven of the confederation’s top teams for the right to represent the region at Qatar 2022.


For the first time, the September international window features three World Cup qualifying matches and it all starts off with a trip to the hostile environs of San Salvador. Kickoff from Estadio Cuscatlan is set for 10:05 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network, Paramount+ and Universo.


Fans can follow the USMNT during the tournament on Twitter (@USMNT), Instagram (@USMNT), Facebook and the official U.S. Soccer App.





GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Nottingham Forest/ENG; 7/0), Zack Steffen (Manchester City/ENG; 23/0), Matt Turner (New England Revolution; 7/0)


DEFENDERS (10): George Bello (Atlanta United; 3/0), John Brooks (Wolfsburg/GER; 43/3), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona/ESP; 11/1), Mark McKenzie (Genk/BEL; 6/0), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 45/1), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 12/0), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United; 9/3), James Sands (New York City FC; 6/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray/TUR; 64/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 17/2)


MIDFIELDERS (5): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 37/2), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig/GER; 14/1), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 29/7), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 24/7), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 25/0)


FORWARDS (7):Brenden Aaronson (RB Salzburg/AUT; 7/3), Konrad de la Fuente (Olympique Marseille/FRA; 1/0), Jordan Pefok (BSC Young Boys/SUI; 6/1), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas; 0/0), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 38/16), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 8/4), Josh Sargent (Norwich City/ENG; 16/5)







Time (ET)

TV Info

Thursday, Sept. 2

El Salvador

Estadio Cuscatlan; San Salvador, El Salvador

10:05 p.m.

*CBS Sports Network, Paramount+, Universo

Sunday, Sept. 5


Nissan Stadium; Nashville, Tenn.

8:00 p.m.

FS1, UniMás, TUDN

Wednesday, Sept. 8


Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano; San Pedro Sula, Honduras

10:05 p.m.

*Paramount+, Universo


*FAQ – Away World Cup Qualifying TV Rights 


Teams qualify for the World Cup through their regional confederations, and the USMNT will have to run the gauntlet of Concacaf (North America, Central America and the Caribbean) to reach Qatar 2022. For the first time, eight teams will contest the final round of World Cup qualifying for Concacaf from September to March. The nations will play a 14-match round-robin, home and away against each of the seven other teams.


Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the World Cup qualifying schedule has been condensed from 18 months to seven. To accommodate the new schedule, the USMNT will play three matches during four of the five international windows rather than the usual two matches.


The USA will be challenged from the very outset, with difficult road trips to El Salvador and Honduras plus a home date with an on-the-rise Canada team in its first slate of World Cup qualifying matches.







After assembling two almost completely different squads for its two summer trophy-winning runs, head coach Gregg Berhalter has put together an exciting 25-player roster for the first set of World Cup qualifying matches. As the games are scheduled during a FIFA international window, all players were available for selection. Teams can summon a larger group for the window, but the game day rosters for World Cup qualifiers may only include 23 players.


Twenty-three of the 25 players took home hardware this summer with the USMNT- 18 players helped the USA lift the inaugural Concacaf Nations League trophy in June, while eight players were part of the squad that won the USMNT’s seventh Gold Cup title in August. Nine players are on clubs that have qualified for the 2021-22 UEFA Champions League group stage: Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona), Weston McKennie (Juventus), Jordan Pefok (BSC Young Boys), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund) and Zack Steffen (Manchester City).


The two players not to appear with the USMNT this summer have been on hot streaks of their own for their clubs. Eighteen-year-old forward Ricardo Pepi has been on a tear this season for FC Dallas, netting 11 goals to earn his first senior USMNT call-up. The teenage striker also sank the game-winning penalty kick for MLS in last week’s All-Star Game vs. Liga MX. Fellow forward Konrad de la Fuente made a summer move to Ligue 1 power Olympique Marseille and has started each of the club’s first three matches, logging an assist in his club debut on Aug. 8.


Six players have previous World Cup qualifying experience: Christian Pulisic (13 caps), DeAndre Yedlin (10), Kellyn Acosta (6), Tim Ream (6), John Brooks (4) and Sebastian Lletget (1), while the other 19 will look to make their debuts during the Octagonal.





U.S. Soccer kicked off its “Countdown to World Cup Qualifying” with the launch of “Only Forward,” / “Solo Pa’lante,” the USMNT’s new creative campaign focused on uniting fans and the team in a collective journey to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.



Developed in conjunction with the players, coaches and staff, “Only Forward / Solo Pa’lante” highlights a young, diverse and global-minded Men’s National Team that is humble yet resilient as it looks to tackle the challenge of World Cup Qualifying during the next eight months. After an action-packed summer in which the deep U.S. player pool responded to adversity on and off the field and proved itself with two regional championship trophies, the USMNT is ready to show the world that they are prepared to change the way the world views American soccer.





Ahead of World Cup qualifying, the USMNT had a busy, productive summer taking home two confederation championships in the inaugural Nations League and the Gold Cup. Using almost two entirely different rosters, the USMNT gained invaluable experience and deepened the young, talented player pool with the two trophy runs in which the team respond to adversity again and again. Twenty-three of the 25 players in camp for September were crowned champions at one of the two tournaments. Two players- midfielders Kellyn Acosta and Sebastian Lletget- were a part of both.


At the Nations League Final Four in June, a hard-fought 1-0 semifinal win vs. Honduras set the stage for an instant classic USA-Mexico match in the Concacaf Nations League Final, a dramatic 3-2 victory. Gio Reyna and Weston McKennie both equalized for the USA in regulation before Christian Pulisic drew and converted the game-winning penalty in the second period of overtime. Substitute goalkeeper Ethan Horvath shone in saving a Mexico penalty in stoppage time of the second overtime period to secure the USMNT’s first trophy of the summer.


With an almost entirely different roster, the USA took home its seventh Concacaf Gold Cup in August with another dramatic overtime final vs. Mexico. Twelve players made their debuts in official competition for the U.S. during the tournament, and players like defender Miles Robinson and goalkeeper Matt Turner- who entered the Gold Cup with just four combined international caps- played the hero for the USMNT, highlighted in the 1-0 victory against Mexico. Turner took home the tournament’s Golden Glove after shutting out El Tri in the final and allowing just one goal during his seven starts, while Robinson anchored the defense and headed in the championship-winning goal in the second period of overtime vs. Mexico.




  • As of the start of camp on August 30, the USMNT roster had an average age of 24 years, 43 days. Thirteen players were 23 and younger as of the first day of training.

  • The 26-player roster averages 18 caps overall and seven in official competition.

  • Players hail from clubs in 10 different countries: USA (9), England (6), Germany (3), France (2), Austria, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and Turkey (1 each).

  • Having returned to the USMNT fold for the friendly against El Salvador last December, Acosta has appeared in all 13 matches in 2021 and 14 consecutive matches overall, which is the longest streak of appearances by a USMNT player since DaMarcus Beasley played in 16-straight matches in 2003-04.

  • Lletget sits second on the team with 12 appearances in 2021.

  • With seven goals from the 2018 cycle, 22-year-old forward Christian Pulisic enters the 2022 campaign tied with Michael Bradley for seventh on the USMNT’s all-time WCQ goal scoring list.

  • Pulisic also sits tied for fourth on the USMNT’s all-time World Cup Qualifying assists list with six.

  • The WCQ opener at El Salvador comes five years to the day that a 17-year-old Pulisic became the youngest USMNT player to score in qualifying, tallying twice in a 6-0 win at St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Sept. 2, 2016 in Kingstown.

  • The 2016 match in St. Vincent also marked the World Cup Qualifying debut for midfielder Kellyn Acosta, who deputized at left back in the 6-0 win.

  • Brenden Aaronson played a huge role in helping Red Bull Salzburg earn a Champions League berth, scoring in both legs of the club’s qualifying playoff with Brøndby on Aug. 17 and 25.

  • Now based in England, forward Josh Sargent scored his first two goals and registered an assist in Norwich City’s 6-0 win against Bournemouth in the Carabao Cup play on Aug. 24.

  • Defender Antonee Robinson also registered his first goal for Fulham, scoring in stoppage time to give the Cottagers a 2-0 win at Birmingham City in the Carabao Cup on Aug. 24.

  • Eight players were part of the MLS All-Star roster that faced the Liga MX All Stars on Wednesday, Aug. 25 in Los Angeles: George Bello, Sebastian Lletget, Ricardo Pepi, Miles Robinson, Cristian Roldan, James Sands, Matt Turner and Walker Zimmerman.

  • Matt Turner is the first USMNT goalkeeper to post wins in each of his first seven appearances. The 27-year-old has conceded just one goal – which came on a penalty kick – in that time. Turner has posted an 11-2-4 record for New England this season, helping the Revs to the top of the Supporters Shield standings.

  • Turner also saved two penalties and earned Man of the Match honors to help the MLS defeat their Liga MX counterparts in a shootout win in Wednesday’s All-Star Game.

  • The eighteen-year-old Pepi earns his first USMNT call-up. A member of the U.S. squad at the 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup along with George Bello and Gio Reyna, Pepi has registered 11 goals and two assists in 21 appearances for FC Dallas this season.

  • Konrad de la Fuente returns to USMNT camp for the first time since making his debut on Nov. 12, 2020 against Wales.

  • Tim Weah was forced to withdraw from the roster due to an injury suffered in training with his club prior to departure for camp.


  • Thursday marks the 25th meeting all-time between the USA and El Salvador. The USMNT holds a 18-1-5 advantage in the series, outscoring Los Cusatlecos 60-15 and enters the match on a 17-game unbeaten streak vs. the Salvadorans.

  • The USA is 5-0-3 vs. El Salvador all-time in World Cup qualifying, including a 2-0-2 mark on the road. The teams last played in qualifying in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup- both come-from behind results for the USMNT. The U.S. drew El Salvador 2-2 at Estadio Cuscatlan in March 2009 on late goals from Jozy Altidore and Frankie Hejduk and also came back for a 2-1 win in Sandy, Utah in September 2009.

  • The nations last met on Dec. 9, 2020 - a rare December match for the USMNT and a 6-0 victory. Chris Mueller bagged a brace in his U.S. debut, while current call-ups Sebastian Lletget and Brenden Aaronson also scored, Aaronson tallying his first international goal.

  • Five U.S. players appeared vs. El Salvador in December- Aaronson, Lletget, plus defenders Mark McKenzie and Walker Zimmerman and midfielder Kellyn Acosta.

  • A total of six El Salvador players logged minutes in the match: defender Roberto Dominguez, midfielder Darwin Ceren, Marvin Monterroza, Denis Pineda and Narciso Orellana plus forward Joaquin Rivas.

  • El Salvador is coached by former USMNT star midfielder and National Soccer Hall of Famer Hugo Pérez. Pérez scored a critical goal for the USA vs. El Salvador during its qualifying campaign for the 1990 FIFA World Cup, the USA’s first appearance on soccer’s biggest stage in 40 years.



GOALKEEPERS (3): Kevin Carabantes (FAS; 3/0), Mario Gonzalez (Alianza; 11/0), Yonatan Guardado (Once Deportivo; 0/0)


DEFENDERS (8): Lizandro Claros (Aguila; 0/0), Roberto Dominguez (Chalatenango; 42/1), Ronald Gomez (Aguila; 10/0), Alexander Larin (Comunicaciones/GUA; 62/4), Miguel Lemus (Chalatenango; 6/0), Bryan Tamacas (Alianza; 42/1), Eduardo Vigil (Firpo; 1/0), Eriq Zavaleta (Toronto FC/CAN; 8/1)

MIDFIELDERS (10): Melvin Cartagena (Once Deportivo; 1/0), Darwin Ceren (Houston Dynamo/USA; 66/4), Enrico Hernandez (FC Eindhoven/NED; 0/0), Christian Martinez (San Carlos/CRC; 0/0), Armando Moreno (New Mexico United/USA; 4/0), Marvin Monterroza (Alianza; 29/2), Denis Pineda (FAS; 28/3), Narciso Orellana (Alianza; 39/1), Harold Osorio (Alianza; 1/0), Alex Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC/USA; 4/1)


FORWARDS (7): Jairo Henriquez (Aguila; 12/1), Walmer Martinez (Hartford Athletic/USA; 8/2), Joshua Perez (Miami FC/USA; 10/3), Kevin Reyes (FAS; 1/0), Joaquin Rivas (FC Tulsa/USA; 14/4), Erick Rivera (Santa Tecla; 3/0), Styven Vasquez (Aguila; 1/0) 


  • While five teams automatically qualified to the final eight-team round of World Cup qualifying, El Salvador earned its Octoganal berth as one of three nations to emerge from 30 teams competing in the first two rounds.

  • El Salvador was the top-seeded team in the first round and went undefeated in four games against Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Montserrat and the U.S. Virgin Islands to top Group A, outscoring its opponents 13-1.

  • In the six-team second round, El Salvador drew Saint Kitts and Nevis for a home-and-away series. Los Cusatlecos topped The Sugar Boyz 4-0 in Saint Kitts and won 2-0 in San Salvador to secure its spot in the Octoganal. Forward Josh Perez scored in both matches.

  • Los Cusatlecos also reached the quarterfinals of this summer’s Concacaf Gold Cup, falling 3-2 to Qatar after a second-half comeback effort fell just short.

  • Eighteen of 28 players on El Salvador’s roster compete domestically, with five players coming from Alianza and four from Aguila, historically two of the country’s strongest clubs. Six players are based in the U.S., including two in MLS- Ceren and Roldan. El Salvador also sports players who ply their trade in Canada, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Netherlands.

  • El Salvador has seen a recent influx of U.S.-connected talent since Perez took over the program earlier this year. His nephew, Josh, played with Tyler Adams and Christian Pulisic at the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup. Midfielder Armando Moreno was an unused sub for the USMNT vs. Puerto Rico in May 2016, while midfielder Alex Roldan is the younger brother of U.S. midfielder Cristian Roldan. Defender Eriq Zavaleta also appeared for the USA at the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup.

  • Houston Dynamo midfielder Darwin Ceren is the roster’s most experienced player with 66 international caps.

  • Most recently, El Salvador played Costa Rica to a 0-0 friendly on Aug. 21 in Carson, Calif.

  • The Octagonal marks El Salvador’s fifth appearance in the final round of Concacaf World Cup qualifying after vying to reach the 1990, 1994, 1998 and 2010 tournaments. The Salvadorans finished fifth out of six teams during its last appearance attempting to qualify for South Africa 2010.

  • El Salvador reached the World Cup in 1970 and 1982 but finished last in both of its appearances at the tournament.