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United States Men's National Team: Ranking the Top Five Central Midfielders

Central midfield is one of the most important areas of the field in soccer, and the United States Men's National Team has a nice collection of developing talent in that position.

USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter has handed at least 10 appearances to 10 different players who play the position at least part-time.

We already ranked the top five defensive midfielders in the USMNT player pool, but the players eligible for this list play between the defensive midfielder and the attacking front three.

For this list, we'll look at the most important stats for advanced midfielders. Those include key passes (passes leading to shots), progressive passes, pass accuracy, progressive ball carries, goalscoring and assisting threat, dribbles, shot- and goal-creating actions, and defensive stats including tackles, interceptions and ball recoveries.

All listed stats will be broken down into per-90 minute rates unless otherwise noted.

5. Luca de la Torre

Club: Celta Vigo (La Liga - Spain)
Key Stats: 4 total assists, 4.9 ball recoveries, 2.7 progressive carries, 1.8 carries into attacking third, 0.8 key passes, 4.3 progressive passes, 2.7 passes into attacking third, 81.2 percent pass accuracy, 1.0 tackles won, 0.5 interceptions

Luca de la Torre, known as LDLT to USMNT fans, could fit also fit the defensive midfielder category. Since moving to Spanish club Celta Vigo in 2022, he has played in a more advanced role, and he beat out Venezia's Tanner Tessmann, Portland Timbers' Eryk Williamson, Chicago Fire's Kellyn Acosta and Los Angeles FC's Timmy Tillman, among others, for this spot.

De la Torre had a career-high four assists in the 2023/24 season, the third-most on his team. Unfortunately for him, the team performed slightly worse with him off the pitch: Vigo averaged 1.08 points per match overall but 1.03 with LDLT playing, and it had a -3.8 overall xG differential which grew to -4.4 with De la Torre on the pitch.

Still, he has earned playing time in one of Europe's top five leagues, but he's going to have to improve upon his 0.8 key passes if he wants to become a reliable creative midfielder. His momentum took a hit with a late-season hamstring injury, but he needs to become more consistent.

4. Gianluca Busio

Club: Venezia (Serie B - Italy)
Key Stats: 7 total goals, 4 total assists, 0.5 shots on target, 87.6 percent pass accuracy, 3.2 passes into attacking third, 1.0 pass into penalty area, 1.3 key passes, 2.6 shot-creating actions, 1.1 tackles won, 4.8 ball recoveries

Gianluca Busio joined Venezia as a teenager and when the team got relegated from Serie A, fans began to question why he made the move in the first place. Busio's patience has been rewarded, as he scored seven goals with four assists in Serie B as a 21-year-old in 2023/24.

Sometimes, sticking around in a lower league and producing is better for a player's career than struggling in one of the world's best leagues. Busio played in all but one of his team's matches and finished third among his teammates in minutes, goals and assists.

In addition to finding the net and his teammates, Busio gets into dangerous areas and is an accurate passer who also contributes well on defense. With Busio on the field, Venezia outscored its opponents by 17 goals on the season and created 0.45 more expected goals per match.

3. Yunus Musah

Club: AC Milan (Serie A - Italy)
Key Stats: 2 total assists, 85.0 percent pass accuracy, 2.7 passes into attacking third, 2.3 shot-creating actions, 0.8 tackles won, 0.6 interceptions, 2.9 progressive ball carries, 4.5 ball recoveries

Yunus Musah has a long way to go in his development, but at 21 years old, he deserves plenty of credit for having four full seasons between Spain's La Liga and Italy's Serie A under his belt. Plus, in 2023/24, he took a step forward in his first season with AC Milan.

Musah reached a career-high in passing accuracy, completing 85 percent of his passes, up from his old career high of 78.3. His pass accuracy has increased considerably in each of the past two seasons, which is encouraging considering how it had been a big weakness of his.

Better known for his athleticism and ball-carrying ability, Musah ranked in the top 15 percent of Serie A midfielders in progressive carries, successful dribbles and carries into the attacking third. If he can add some more passing creativity to his game, he could become one of the first names on the USMNT's team sheet.

2. Gio Reyna

Club: Borussia Dortmund (Bundesliga - Germany)
Key Stats: 93.5 percent pass accuracy, 2.5 key passes, 1.6 passes into penalty area, 3.5 passes into attacking third, 2.3 shots, 1.6 tackles won, 5.7 ball recoveries

If any player in the United States Men's National Team player pool needs a full season as a full-time starter, it's Gio Reyna. Now 21 years old, Reyna spent the first half of 2023/24 at his parent club Borussia Dortmund, and the second half on loan to Nottingham Forest in the Premier League.

Reyna appeared in 24 matches in all competitions between the two teams, but he played just 607 minutes of club soccer all season. Sure, his stats look nice, but he has not played a full 90 minutes for club or country since March 20, 2022.

With all that being said, whenever Reyna plays for the national team - particularly in midfield as one of two more advanced players of the three-player midfielder Berhalter uses - he looks great. For instance, he came off the bench and provided two assists in extra time for a 3-1 Nations League semifinal win over Jamaica in March, and he scored the second goal of a 2-0 Nations League Final win over Mexico three days later.

1. Weston McKennie

Club: Juventus (Serie A - Italy)
Key Stats: 7 total assists, 2.9 shot-creating actions, 2.2 progressive carries, 2.4 touches in attacking penalty area, 2.4 clearances, 1.4 key passes, 3.2 progressive passes, 1.8 passes into attacking third, 76.6 percent pass accuracy, 1.0 tackles won, 4.0 ball recoveries

Weston McKennie faced something of a reality check after leaving FC Schalke for Juventus as a 20-year-old, but after some down years in Italy and a ill-fated loan to Leeds United in the Premier League, he reached new heights in Turin with Juve in 2023/24 as he developed into a chance-creating box-to-box midfielder.

McKennie played the fifth-most Serie A minutes of any outfield player on Juventus, and he led the team with seven assists. Those seven assists were the joint-seventh most in the league, and while McKennie's pass accuracy of 76.6 percent is not stellar, he took more risks - including 5.1 long passes per game, his highest number in four seasons in Italy - and they paid off pretty well as Juventus finished third in the league.

Crucially, Juventus fared much better with McKennie on the pitch than they did without him. Juventus outscored their opponents by 16 total goals - which is 0.56 goals per 90 minutes that McKennie played - and out-created opponents by an average of 0.75 xG per match with the American on the field.

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