US-Serbia preview: 2026 World Cup cycle begins

The 2022 World Cup is in the rearview mirror. That’s why it’s time for the US Men’s National Team (USMNT) to turn its attention to the 2026 World Cup, which will be played right here in the United States alongside Mexico and Canada.

Given the unique timing of the World Cup in Qatar, the annual January camp for the United States also represents the first games of the new World Cup cycle. Unfortunately, this camp starts under a cloud of uncertainty and a level of drama worthy of a soap opera.

Hopefully Wednesday’s game between the US and Serbia can provide some much-needed positivity.

Interim boss Anthony Hudson has a job to do. Hudson does have managerial experience. Unfortunately, his results are poor: 9-11-7 (WLD) with the New Zealand national team and 8-28-10 with the Colorado Rapids. His job is a combination of getting results in these two friendlies against Serbia and Colombia, and gaining international experience for young Olympic players before they head to the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris next year.

US-Serbia Preview: What the USMNT Roster Looks Like

The roster enlisted by Hudson certainly leans into the pool of Olympic players. Twelve of the players called up are 23 or younger. Many of the players called up have never played for the USMNT.

Perhaps most importantly, a number of players have dual citizenship and are at the center of a US-Mexico tug-of-war. The most notable of these are forwards Brandon Vazquez of FC Cincinnati and Alejandro Zendejas (after a great game for Club America in Mexico City last week).

And, of course, it’s not a camp in January without a handful of MLS veterans to round things out. The difference now is that some of them were on the World Cup-roster. Those guys can fulfill a mentoring role for the youngsters who have never played at an international level before. Among them are players like defender Walker Zimmerman and midfielder Kellyn Acosta who have 37 and 55 caps respectively.

Serbian opposition

Serbia rolls into 2023 after a bad World Cup. They dropped their Group G opener against Brazil 2-0, blowing a 3-1 lead in the second half and settling for a draw against Cameroon, then lost 3-2 in a back and forth affair in the group final against Switzerland.

Like the US, the Serbs also have an eye for gaining experience for their young players. Of the 17 players called in by manager Dragan Stojkovic, only three have international experience. Those three players together have four international matches for Serbia. Funnily enough, two of those guys play in the MLS: goalkeeper Dorde Petrovic with the New England Revolution and forward Dejan Joveljic with the LA Galaxy.

Where and when to watch the match

Wednesday, January 25, 2023
BMO stadium
Los Angeles, CA
10 p.m. ET
Live on HBO Max, Universo and Peacock

Series of all time

Series equal 0-0-1 (WLD)

Last meeting

Sunday, January 29, 2017
San Diego stadium
San Diego, California
USA 0-0 Serbia

Current FIFA ranking

US: 13
Serbia: 29

Next American game

Saturday, January 28, 2023
Internationally friendly
USA vs Colombia
Dignity Health Sports Park
Carson, California
7:30 p.m. ET
Live on TNT, Telemundo and fuboTV

Photo: IMAGO / Ulrich Hufnagel

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Alejandro Zendejas,Anthony Hudson,Brandon Vasquez,Kelly Acosta,Serbia,USMNT,Walker Zimmerman,World football news

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