After nine months of angst and bitterness, the sport of soccer in the United States finally received a jolt of good news on Wednesday, as the United Bid comprised of Canada, Mexico and the U.S. prevailed over Morocco to win the hosting rights for the 2026 World Cup.
The win allows U.S. soccer fans to dream a bit, to think of stadiums filled with fans from around the world. Plenty of minds will also drift to what the U.S. team will look like on the field. Will the current crop of young players making strides in Europe be able to sustain their progress? Will MLS academies continue to churn out prospects?
With that in mind, here is one possible starting XI that might take the field for the United States eight years hence.
United States' 2026 potential XI
GK Zack Steffen: The Columbus Crew keeper has been steadily climbing the U.S. goalkeeping depth chart, and his stellar performance in a 1-1 draw with World Cup contenders France is the latest sign that his star is on the rise.
DF Antonee Robinson: The England-born Robinson has shown an ability to attack as well as defend, and after spending a season on loan with Bolton Wanderers is looking forward to making more progress this season with Everton.
DF Erik Palmer-Brown: The fact that he's on the books at Manchester City speaks well of Palmer-Brown, though his performances while on loan with Belgian side KV Kortrijk were a more tangible sign of his progress.
DF Matt Miazga: The Chelsea man looks ready to make the next step after spending two seasons in the Eredivisie with Vitesse. With the U.S. team, he's continued to impress with his passing out of the back.
DF Jaylin Lindsey: A right-back who loves to get forward, Lindsay was one of the more impressive performers for the United States at the FIFA U-17 World Cup last year. He's also shown he can play center-back at times.
World Cup 2018 must-reads
- Make your picks with ESPN FC Match Predictor 2018!
- Welcome to the Alternative 2018 World Cup Fans' Guide
- ESPN FC's experts make their picks
- Marvel's amazing World Cup spoilers
- Revealed: World Cup 2018 Ultimate XI
- Fixtures, results and full coverage
- Team-by-team previews of all 32 nations
MF Keaton Parks: The Dallas-area product has been rising through the ranks of Portuguese soccer and got his first taste of first-team action with Benfica last season. Early looks reveal a player with size (he's 6-foot-4) and skill.
MF Weston McKennie: Steady progress at Bundesliga side Schalke last campaign has created a high level of expectation for McKennie, who might even grace the Champions League this season.
MF Timothy Weah: He made some inroads at star-studded club Paris Saint-Germain this past season, and while he had some ups and downs in recent friendlies for the U.S. senior team, he has plenty of raw ability that, if refined, could see him get more minutes for club and country.
MF Christian Pulisic: It's almost frightening to think that Pulisic will be 27 when the 2026 World Cup comes around, but given his tenacity, creativity and finishing ability he should still be a huge contributor to the U.S. cause.
MF Tyler Adams: A tenacious defender, Adams has been adding a bit more offensive spark to his game as well. A long-rumored move to RB Leipzig could see his career really take off.
FW Josh Sargent: His birth year meant that Sargent couldn't play professional matches for Werder Bremen last campaign, but there are plenty of signs that he could make big strides this upcoming season. He's been described as a grinder with quality.
Others to keep an eye on:
Goalkeepers: Bill Hamid, Ethan Horvath, Brady Scott
Defenders: Cameron Carter-Vickers, Justin Glad, Shaq Moore, James Sands
Midfielders: Andrew Carleton, Chris Goslin, Chris Durkin
Forwards: Rubio Rubin, Haji Wright, Ulysses Llanez