Preview: USMNT Kicks Off 2026 FIFA World Cup Cycle Against Serbia In Los AngelesPotential-Packed USMNT Roster Will Square Off with Fellow 2022 World Cup Participant to Open 2023; Kickoff from BMO Stadium Set for 10 p.m. ET on Jan. 25 on HBO Max, Universo, Peacock and Telemundo App
CHICAGO (Jan. 23, 2023) – The U.S. Men’s National Team will start the 2026 FIFA World Cup cycle against Serbia on Wednesday, Jan. 25. The journey to hosting the world’s biggest sporting event alongside Canada and Mexico begins this week as a young U.S. roster will look to make their mark with the USMNT alongside a number of veterans returning from the USA’s successful showing at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Kickoff for USA-Serbia from BMO Stadium in Los Angeles is set for 10 p.m. ET on Jan. 25 on HBO Max, Universo, Peacock and the Telemundo App.
USMNT ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB/COUNTRY; CAPS/GOALS) - JANUARY CAMP
GOALKEEPERS (3): Roman Celentano (FC Cincinnati; 0/0), Sean Johnson (Unattached; 10/0), Gaga Slonina (Chelsea/ENG; 0/0)
DEFENDERS (8): Jonathan Gómez (Real Sociedad/ESP; 1/0), Julian Gressel (Vancouver Whitecaps/CAN; 0/0), DeJuan Jones (New England Revolution; 0/0), Aaron Long (LAFC; 29/3), Jalen Neal (LA Galaxy; 0/0), Sam Rogers (Rosenborg/NOR; 0/0), John Tolkin (New York Red Bulls; 0/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 37/3)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Paxten Aaronson (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER; 0/0), Kellyn Acosta (LAFC; 55/2), Aidan Morris (Columbus Crew; 0/0), Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas; 1/0), Alan Soñora (Unattached; 0/0), Eryk Williamson (Portland Timbers; 4/0)
FORWARDS (7): Paul Arriola (FC Dallas; 48/10), Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes; 1/0), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; 16/7), Matthew Hoppe (Middlesbrough/ENG; 6/1), Emmanuel Sabbi (Odense/DEN; 0/0), Brandon Vazquez (FC Cincinnati; 0/0), Alejandro Zendejas (Club America/MEX; 0/0)
With the match dates falling outside of the designated international calendar, clubs are not required to release players for national team duty. The January camp typically consists largely of U.S.-based players who are not in season.
USA SCHEDULE - JANUARY CAMP
THE ROAD TO A WORLD CUP ROSTER IS PAVED THROUGH JANUARY CAMP
Dating back to 1999, 30 players who have debuted or earned their second cap during the USMNT’s first camp of a calendar year have gone on to make a FIFA World Cup roster. From the USA’s squad at Qatar 2022, nine players earned their first or second cap during a January camp match, including captain Tyler Adams, forward Brenden Aaronson, defenders Walker Zimmerman and Tim Ream and starting goalkeeper Matt Turner. That figure also includes five members of the 100-cap club: Jozy Altidore, DaMarcus Beasley, Carlos Bocanegra, Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan.
The USMNT’s January training camp roster is traditionally filled with rising talents getting their first looks with the senior team and this year’s squad is no different. Eleven players have earned their first USMNT call-up -- goalkeeper Roman Celentano, defenders Julian Gressel, Jalen Neal, Sam Rogers and John Tolkin, midfielders Paxten Aaronson, Aidan Morris and Alan Soñora plus forwards Emmanuel Sabbi, Brandon Vazquez and Alejandro Zendejas. In addition, goalkeeper Gaga Slonina and defender DeJuan Jones join the aforementioned 11 in seeking their full international debut against Serbia and Colombia. Five other players have six or fewer USMNT appearances -- defender Jonathan Gómez, midfielders Paxton Pomykal and Eryk Williamson plus forwards Cade Cowell and Matthew Hoppe.
The young, uncapped players come with plenty of experience in the U.S. Men’s Youth National Teams program. Last summer, Aaronson, Cowell and Neal helped lead the USA to a third-straight Concacaf U-20 Championship, a berth to the Olympics for the first time since Beijing 2008 and a spot in this summer’s FIFA U-20 World Cup. First-time call-ups Vazquez and Zendejas represented the USA at the 2015 U-17 World Cup, while Sabbi was a part of the U.S. team at the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup.
WORLD CUP VETERANS RETURN
In addition to the young talent getting an opportunity this month, five players return from the USMNT’s successful run at the World Cup -- goalkeeper Sean Johnson, defenders Zimmerman and Aaron Long, midfielder Kellyn Acosta and forward Jesús Ferreira. Zimmerman played a key role on the U.S. back line, appearing in every match and making a critical goal line clearance late in the USMNT’s knockout round-clinching victory against Iran. Acosta made two substitute appearances in Qatar and Ferreira started in the Round of 16 match against Netherlands.
USMNT assistant coach Anthony Hudson will lead the training camp while fellow World Cup assistant B.J. Callaghan and Under-20 Men’s Youth National Team head coach Mikey Varas will serve as assistant coaches amid the ongoing investigation around head coach Gregg Berhalter and U.S. Soccer’s full review of the USMNT program following the conclusion of the 2022 FIFA World Cup still underway.
In the past, the customary review of the past four years of the entire program following a World Cup would begin in the summer, well ahead of any year-end contract expiration. The unique November-December timing of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar significantly reduced the amount of time that the Federation would have to conduct a proper assessment prior to the end of the head coach’s contract.
USA ROSTER NOTES
- The roster averages nine international caps and had an average age of 24 years, 46 days as of the first day of training on Jan. 21.
- Five players from the USA’s 2022 FIFA World Cup roster are taking part in January camp: midfielder Kellyn Acosta (55 caps), defenders Walker Zimmerman (37 caps) and Aaron Long (29 caps), forward Jesús Ferreira (16 caps) and goalkeeper Sean Johnson (10 caps).
- Veteran forward Paul Arriola (48 caps) returns to the USMNT after last appearing in the 0-0 draw against Saudi Arabia on Sept. 27, 2022 in Murcia, Spain. Should he appear in both matches, Arriola will become the 60th USMNT player to earn 50 career international appearances.
- Five other players on the roster have caps: Matthew Hoppe (6), Eryk Williamson (4), Cade Cowell (1), Jonathan Gómez (1) and Paxton Pomykal (1).
- Eleven of the 13 uncapped players are in their first USMNT camp: goalkeeper Roman Celentano; defenders Julian Gressel, Jalen Neal, Sam Rogers and John Tolkin; midfielders Paxten Aaronson, Aidan Morris and Alan Soñora; forwards Emmanuel Sabbi, Brandon Vazquez and Alejandro Zendejas.
- Uncapped goalkeeper Gaga Slonina and defender DeJuan Jones return to camp for the first time since last January.
- Fifteen players are currently under contract with Major League Soccer clubs, seven feature for clubs abroad and two players – Sean Johnson and Alan Soñora – are currently unattached.
- Seven players feature for clubs outside of Major League Soccer, marking the highest foreign-based contingent ever in a USMNT January camp. They are Paxten Aaronson (Eintracht Frankfurt; Germany), Jonathan Gómez (Real Sociedad; Spain), Matthew Hoppe (Middlesbrough; England), Sam Rogers (Rosenborg; Norway), Emmanuel Sabbi (Odense; Denmark), Gaga Slonina (Chelsea) and Alejandro Zendejas (Club America; Mexico).
- Eight players are age-eligible for the 2024 Summer Olympics: Matthew Hoppe and Aidan Morris (21); John Tolkin (20); Paxten Aaronson, Cade Cowell, Jonathan Gómez, and Jalen Neal (19); Gaga Slonina (18).
- After signing with LAFC early in the new year, defender Aaron Long will play his first match at BMO Stadium as a member of the Black and Gold on Jan. 25 against Serbia.
- Long’s new club teammate Kellyn Acosta will also make his first appearance at BMO Stadium since finding the back of the net to help LAFC win the 2022 MLS Cup Final.
- Five players are from Southern California: Paul Arriola (Chula Vista), Matthew Hoppe (Yorba Linda), Aaron Long (Oak Hills), Jalen Neal (Lakewood) and Brandon Vazquez (San Diego).
- Paxton Pomykal earns his first USMNT call-up since the 2020 January camp. The FC Dallas midfielder earned his senior-team debut months earlier in the 1-1 draw against Uruguay on Sept. 10, 2019 in St. Louis.
- Midfielder Eryk Williamson returns to the USMNT for the first time since appearing in the Concacaf Gold Cup Final win against Mexico on Aug. 1, 2021 in Las Vegas.
- Another member of the 2021 Gold Cup winning side, forward Matthew Hoppe is seeking his first cap since the 2-1 win against Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying on Oct. 13, 2021 in Columbus.
- Forward Cade Cowell and defender Jonathan Gómez made their USMNT debuts at Dignity Health Sports Park, coming on as substitutes in the 1-0 friendly win against Bosnia and Herzegovina on Dec. 18, 2021.
- German-born veteran defender Julian Gressel received his U.S. citizenship on Nov. 5, 2022, paving the way for this month’s call-up. The 29-year-old defender has competed in nearly 200 competitive matches during his time with Atlanta United (2017-19), D.C. United (2020-22) and Vancouver Whitecaps (2022-present).
- Should he feature in either match, 18-year-old Gaga Slonina would become the youngest goalkeeper to appear for the USMNT. The current record holder is Tony Meola, who was 19 years, 106 days when he debuted on June 7, 1988 in Albuquerque, N.M.
- Four of the five World Cup veterans made their USMNT debuts in matches associated with January camp: Sean Johnson (Jan. 22, 2011 vs. Chile), Kellyn Acosta (Jan. 31, 2016 vs. Iceland), Walker Zimmerman (Feb. 3, 2017 vs. Jamaica) and Jesús Ferreira (Feb. 1, 2020 vs. Costa Rica).
- After earning his first two caps in late 2018, Aaron Long made his third and fourth appearances for the USMNT in the team’s first two matches of 2019 – a 3-0 win against Panama on Jan. 27 and 2-0 win against Costa Rica on Feb. 2.
- Three players helped the USA claim the 2022 Concacaf U-20 Championship and qualify for this year’s FIFA U-20 World Cup in Indonesia and the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris: Paxten Aaronson, Cade Cowell and Jalen Neal.
- Younger brother of 2022 World Cup veteran Brenden Aaronson, Paxten Aaronson transferred to German Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt late last year after helping Philadelphia Union to a first-place finish in the Eastern Conference and a spot in the MLS Cup Final.
- Should Paxten appear in either match, the Aaronsons would become the eighth set of brothers to represent the USMNT: John and Pedro DeBrito; Otto and Rolf Decker; Angelo and Paul DiBernardo; Charlie and Henry McCully; George and Louie Nanchoff; Steve and Ken Snow; Archie and Tom Stark.
- Teammates at the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile, first time call-ups Brandon Vazquez and Alejandro Zendejas are the seventh and eighth players from that squad to earn a USMNT call-up.
- Vazquez comes off a breakout season in which he registered 18 goals and eight assists in 33 matches to help FC Cincinnati earn its first berth in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
- Zendejas tallied four goals and two assists in 16 matches to help Club América finish top of the table during the 2022-23 Liga MX Apertura campaign. He netted a remarkable strike for his first goal of the Clausura this past weekend to equalize against Puebla.
- Forward Emmanuel Sabbi was part of the U.S. squad at the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Korea Republic and will look to become the 10th player from that team to earn a USMNT cap. Injured at the start of the Danish SuperLiga season, Sabbi recorded two goals and two assists in his four appearances for Odense prior to the World Cup break.
- Part of the U.S. squad that claimed the 2018 Concacaf U-20 Championship, center back Sam Rogers comes to his first USMNT camp on the back of a strong 2022 Norwegian Elitserien campaign with Rosenborg. The 23-year-old defender recorded six goals and two assists and helped earn six shutouts in 23 appearances to help the club to a third-place finish.
- Currently unattached to a club, midfielder Alan Soñora earns his first USMNT call-up after three seasons with Independiente in Argentina.
- Midfielder Aidan Morris and defender John Tolkin were guest players at the USMNT’s fitness camp prior to the selection of the 2022 FIFA World Cup roster last October in Frisco, Texas.
- Still just 20 years old, Tolkin has racked up 59 career regular season appearances as a left back for New York Red Bulls the past two seasons.
- The 21-year-old Morris started 20 of his 27 regular season appearances for Columbus Crew last season.
BACK TO LA
After the condensed World Cup qualifying schedule featured three Octagonal matches for the USMNT during January/February 2022, the USA returns to the passionate soccer community in the Los Angeles area to launch its four-year run up to hosting the world’s biggest sporting event - the 2026 FIFA World Cup - alongside Canada and Mexico.
The USMNT has played in California 114 times, more than any other state, with 43 of those matches taking place in Carson and Los Angeles. USA-Serbia marks the USMNT’s first game at LAFC’s BMO Stadium, while the U.S. is 12-2-3 at Dignity Health Sports Park all-time and 11-7-9 in matches played in Los Angeles proper. SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. is one of 11 U.S. host venues for the 2026 World Cup.
- The USMNT and Serbia will meet for the fourth time, with the USA posting a 0-2-1 record.
- The nations last met to kick off the USMNT’s 2017 schedule, playing to a scoreless draw at Qualcomm Stadium on Jan. 29 in San Diego.
- Their first encounter came at the 1956 Olympics in Sydney, where the U.S. fell to then Yugoslavia in the quarterfinals as the Balkan nation took home the silver medal. They also clashed at the 1998 FIFA World Cup, a tight 1-0 loss for the U.S.
- The USMNT finished the 2022 FIFA World Cup cycle with a 2-4-2 record against European opposition.
SERBIA ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB; CAPS/GOALS)
GOALKEEPERS (2): Dorde Petrović (New England Revolution/USA; 1/0), Dragan Rosić (Radnički Niš; 0/0)
DEFENDERS (5): Filip Damjanović (Voždovac; 0/0), Marko Mijailović (Voždovac; 0/0), Nemanja Petrović (TSC; 0/0), Nemanja Stojić (TSC; 0/0), Ranko Veselinović (Vancouver Whitecaps FC/CAN; 1/0)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Luka Bijelović (Spartak Subotica; 0/0), Luka Ilić (TSC; 0/0), Marko Ivezić (Voždovac; 0/0), Vladimir Lučić (Čukarički; 0/0), Miloš Pantović (Voždovac; 0/0), Nikola Petković (Čukarički; 0/0), Veljko Simić (Vojvodina; 0/0), Mirko Topić (Vojvodina; 0/0)
FORWARDS (2): Dejan Jovelijić (LA Galaxy/USA; 2/0), Nikola Štulić (Radnički Niš)
IN FOCUS: SERBIA
- Serbia is preparing to kick off qualifying for the 2024 UEFA European Championship during the March international window. The Balkan nation was drawn alongside Hungary, Montenegro, Bulgaria and Lithuania in Group G, with the top two teams reaching the final tournament in Germany.
- The roster features three players preparing for the Major League Soccer season - New England Revolution goalkeeper Dorde Petrović, Vancouver Whitecaps FC defender Ranko Veselinović and LA Galaxy forward Dejan Jovelijć.
- Petrović is teammates with U.S. defender DeJuan Jones, Veselinović with defender Julian Gressel and Jovelijić with defender Jalen Neal.
- The other 14 players all compete domestically in Serbia, which resumes play after its World Cup stoppage on Feb. 4.
- The Orlovi have brought a very green roster to Southern California, as only three of the 17 players have previously earned caps for Serbia.
- None of Serbia’s 14 players were a part of the team’s World Cup squad.
- Head coach Dragan Stojković has led Serbia since March 2021, guiding the Orlovi to the top spot in its UEFA qualifying group for the World Cup. He has compiled a 14-5-5 record during his tenure.
- As a player, Stojković was a top performer for the Yugoslavia national team, making 84 appearances and scoring 15 goals. He represented his country at the 1990 and 1998 FIFA World Cups as well as the 1984 and 2000 UEFA European Championships.
- He launched his managerial career in Japan, where he spent several years as a player, managing Nagoya Grampus before a stint at Guangzhou in China and taking the helm of Serbia.