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USMNT call up Ricardo Pepi, Christian Pulisic for World Cup qualifying matches; Jordan Morris returns

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Pulisic: USMNT believe we can beat anyone (0:57)

Christian Pulisic looks ahead to the USMNT's remaining World Cup qualifiers and their long-term goals. (0:57)

Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams highlight the United States men's national team roster for manager Gregg Berhalter ahead of the three-game World Cup qualifying window that begins next week.

The roster also includes Ricardo Pepi, fresh off his transfer from FC Dallas to Augsburg earlier this month.

- How USMNT can qualify for the World Cup this week

Through eight of 14 matches, the United States sits second in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying standings with 15 points -- a point behind first-place Canada and a point ahead of Mexico and Panama. The top three teams automatically qualify for the 2022 Qatar World Cup, while the fourth-place finisher will play a single-match qualifier in June.

The United States hosts El Salvador in Columbus, Ohio, on Thursday (7 p.m. ET, watch LIVE on ESPN2) and plays at Canada in Hamilton, Ontario, on Jan. 30 before finishing the window against Honduras in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Feb. 2.

The 28-man roster features the return of Seattle Sounders FC forward Jordan Morris, who missed most of the 2021 Major League Soccer season with an ACL injury and did not take part in the first eight World Cup qualifying matches. Morris is one of 13 MLS-based players on the roster, including 17-year-old goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina, who is one of four goalkeepers (Zack Steffen, Matt Turner, Sean Johnson).

Timothy Weah, one of the standout players for the U.S. team through qualifying, had been a question mark because of an injury he suffered in December with Lille, but he was included after returning to action this week.

The midfield options include projected starters Yunus Musah, McKennie and Adams, along with Luca De la Torre, who has seen his profile rise recently through strong play with Heracles in the Dutch Eredivisie. Venezia midfielder Gianluca Busio was originally slated to be part of the roster, but had to drop off after testing positive for COVID-19, Berhalter told reporters on Friday.

Notable exclusions include VfL Wolfsburg center back John Brooks, Borussia Monchengladbach fullback Joe Scally, Young Boys striker Jordan Pefok and Norwich City forward Josh Sargent. Sargent scored his first two Premier League goals for Norwich just minutes after the U.S. roster was released.

"There's absolutely nothing beyond form with [Brooks]," Berhalter said. "We think that he has the opportunity to play a role with us in the future. For this window, we decided, based on how we're looking at these games and what are the strengths of our opponent, that he wouldn't be the best fit for this particular window. We're hoping that he regains his form for Wolfsburg and they start winning games and move themselves up the table and he's a key part of that."

Borussia Dortmund attacker Giovanni Reyna, who recently returned to training in Germany following a hamstring injury he suffered on international duty in September, remains unavailable.

"That was another one that was a difficult decision in the end," Berhalter said. "Together with Gio, we thought the best thing for him to do is to stay at Dortmund, train these weeks and try to get into their squad."

On the surface, the roster looks light on left backs with Fulham's Antonee Robinson as the only predominantly left-sided fullback, however Berhalter said he felt comfortable using Barcelona's Sergino Dest, Galatasaray's DeAndre Yedlin or Boavista's Reggie Cannon on the left side, if needed, while LAFC midfielder Kellyn Acosta could also provide cover there. Royal Antwerp's Sam Vines and Scally both could have also added depth on the left side had they been included.

GOALKEEPERS (4): Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 9/0), Gabriel Slonina (Chicago Fire; 0/0), Zack Steffen (Manchester City/ENG; 26/0), Matt Turner (New England Revolution; 13/0)

DEFENDERS (9): Reggie Cannon (Boavista/POR; 22/1), Sergino Dest (Barcelona/ESP; 15/2), Brooks Lennon (Atlanta United; 1/0), Mark McKenzie (Genk/BEL; 8/0), Chris Richards (Hoffenheim/GER; 6/0), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 15/3), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United; 15/3), DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray/TUR; 71/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 23/2)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Kellyn Acosta (LAFC; 45/2), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig/GER; 22/1), Luca De la Torre (Heracles/NED; 4/0), Sebastian Lletget (New England Revolution; 33/8), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 28/8), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 11/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 30/0)

FORWARDS (8): Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg/AUT; 15/5), Paul Arriola (DC United; 42/8), Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas; 5/2), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 40/10), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 42/17), Timothy Weah (Lille/FRA; 18/2), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew; 66/14)