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

Quite a few American strikers had good seasons in 2023/24, meaning United States Men's National Team coach Gregg Berhalter has options up front when picking players for his squad.

Having either a talented striker or a striker in great form is often a huge difference maker in international tournaments, and former USMNT strikers Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey came up with some huge goals for their country.

Those guys have been retired for years now, but some forwards in the new generation are starting to make good on their potential.

Here, we're going to rank the top five USMNT-eligible strikers, evaluating them on stats such as goals, expected goals, shots, shots on target, and other traits such as aerial ability, chance creation, or link-up play. All stats will be broken down into per-90 minute rates unless otherwise noted.

5. Duncan McGuire

Club: Orlando City SC (MLS - United States)
Key Stats: 5 total goals, +1.5 total goals minus total expected goals, 2.5 shots, 0.9 shots on target, 0.8 key passes, 1.9 shot-creating actions, 0.2 goal-creating actions, 1.7 ball recoveries, 37.3 percent aerial duels won

Since he entered MLS through the draft before the 2023 season, all Duncan McGuire has done is score goals. The 23-year-old from Creighton scored 13 goals in 1,388 minutes in his rookie season, and he did that on just 5.3 xG.

Orlando City finished second in MLS and reached the Eastern Conference Final in 2023, but the team has struggled mightily in 2024. Still, McGuire leads the team with five goals and 3.5 xG, and he got himself a call-up to the United States Olympics squad.

McGuire isn't an aerial threat as he wins just 37.3 percent of aerial duels, but when he sees the ball in the box, there's a decent chance he'll put it in the back of the net. That's the most important thing a coach can ask from a striker, and that's what puts McGuire on this list over Jesus Ferreira of FC Dallas, Brian White of the Vancouver Whitecaps, and Corey Baird of FC Cincinnati among others.

4. Haji Wright

Club: Coventry City (Championship - England)
Key Stats: 16 total goals, 6 total assists, 3.3 shots, 1.0 shots on target, 0.14 xG per shot, 0.9 key passes, 2.4 shot-creating actions, 0.3 goal-creating actions, 1.0 successful dribbles, 46 percent aerial duels won

Haji Wright played on the wing for Coventry City as he had the best season of his career in 2023/24, but he has been used as a center forward with the USMNT. It's worked well, as he came off the bench and scored twice in extra time in the Nations League Final.

The fact Wright scored fewer goals than his expected goals is concerning, particularly given the nature of international tournaments. But, between the aforementioned Nations League Final and his goal against Manchester United in the 2024 FA Cup semifinal, he has a track record of showing up when it matters.

Wright also has scored at least 10 goals in each of the past four seasons, averaging just over one goal every two games in that span. Sure, he played in the Danish Superliga, the Turkish Super Lig, and England's second-tier Championship, but no other striker in the player pool has put up those numbers for that many years.

3. Folarin Balogun

Club: AS Monaco (Ligue 1 - France)
Key Stats: 7 total goals, 5 total assists, 3.4 shots, 1.4 shots on target, 0.14 xG per shot, 1.4 key passes, 1.1 passes into attacking third, 3.2 shot-creating actions, 0.4 goal-creating actions, 2.5 ball recoveries, 19.5 percent aerial duels won

Putting Folarin Balogun anywhere but atop this list might seem harsh to those focused on his 21-goal 2022/23 campaign on loan to Reims, but Balogun's 2023/24 season was not smooth sailing.

In '23/24, he scored seven league goals, one-third of his tally from '22/23 while playing over half the number of minutes he had in the prior season. Balogun also went 0/3 from the penalty spot in Ligue 1 for Monaco.

It should be noted that Balogun also scored fewer goals than his xG indicated in his season at Reims. His 21 goals that campaign came from 26.6 xG, indicating that he is a below average finisher. Still, he turns 23 this summer and strikers don't always develop quickly, so he certainly has time on his side.

2. Ricardo Pepi

Club: PSV Eindhoven (Eredivisie - Netherlands)
Key Stats: 7 total goals, 2 total assists, 5.8 shots, 2.4 shots on target, 0.21 xG per shot, 2.2 key passes, 4.6 shot-creating actions, 0.7 goal-creating actions, 4.4 ball recoveries, 52.9 percent aerial duels won

Ricardo Pepi spent the 2023/24 season as an understudy to veteran goalscorer Luuk de Jong at PSV in the Netherlands, and the 21-year-old American filled the role to perfection.

He scored seven goals in just 484 league minutes, which equals a goal every 70 minutes of play. His xG was only slightly above his goal tally, as his seven goals came from 7.2 xG.

Pepi's slight lack of finishing efficiency was compensated for by the fact that PSV dominated the league. Whether he sticks around to back up De Jong for another season or, as his agent indicated a few times last season, moves on for more playing time, the 2023/24 season was one to build upon for Pepi.

1. Josh Sargent

Club: Norwich City (Championship - England)
Key Stats: 16 total goals, 2 total assists, 3.2 shots, 1.5 shots on target, 0.17 xG per shot, 1.1 key passes, 3.1 shot-creating actions, 0.4 goal-creating actions, 0.9 successful dribbles, 44.6 percent aerial duels won, 1.9 ball recoveries

Josh Sargent missed almost half the 2023/24 season due to injury, but he was one of the English Championship's best forwards both before and after the injury layoff. He scored three goals in five games before the injury, then he scored the other 13 goals after the calendar turned to 2024.

Sargent also spread his goals around, as he had only one multi-goal game - a two-goal outing in a 4-1 home win over Cardiff City. He scored all 16 of his goals from open play on just 11.2 xG, not including chances from penalty kicks.

Sargent proved his shooting efficiency for the second season in a row - he outscored his xG by 2.5 last season - and it was his second consecutive season hitting double-digit goals. He ranked sixth in the Championship in total goals, second in goals per 90 minutes, and 10th in expected goals.

Given Sargent's goalscoring tally and sample size from the past two seasons, he should enter the Copa America as Berhalter's first-choice striker if he's healthy.

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