What did we learn about the USMNT this international break?

Before we get to what we learned from the USMNT's wins over Jamaica and Mexico to maintain hold of CONCACAF Nations League superiority, let's ask some bigger questions.

Like... yeah that was fun, but what does it mean? And does it need to mean anything?

These meaning of life questions are applicable to the current status of Gregg Berhalter's United States men's national team, now the three-time (and only) champions of the CONCACAF Nations League and without question the team at the peak of Mt. CONCACAF.

[ MORE: Player ratings vs Mexico | USMNT schedule, results ]

No, the Yanks aren't going to beat Mexico every time or thrive away to Canada or on every hot, sticky night in San Pedro Sula, but at the moment their talent level isn't limited to the majority of the top superstars in the confederation but the deepest constellation, too.

Even the riches of the United States don't guarantee long-lasting dominance, of course, but this is a fantastic time to be a USMNT fan, and it also begs the question of where to set reasonable expectations for this summer's Copa America and the 2026 World Cup.

After all, the introduction of the Nations League has been good for the trophy cabinet but it has not been good for the ol' barometer. Matches against top teams outside of CONCACAF are increasingly rare, and CONCACAF is firmly in the "next tier" of confederations behind UEFA and CONMEBOL. Of the top 50 teams in FIFA's rankings, 26 are from Europe, eight from Africa, seven from South America, five from Asia, and four from CONCACAF.

The sample size is small when it comes to recent results against top sides, especially with Mexico decidedly still on a downward trend. The Yanks pasted Ghana 4-0 but lost 3-1 to Germany, both at home. More home wins over Oman and Uzbekistan were top 80 tilts. The only other non-CONCACAF scraps since the 2022 World Cup were January camps against the super depth squads of Serbia and Slovenia.

So the fact that three of this summer's first five games are against top-14 sides (friendlies with Colombia and Brazil, plus a Copa America group stage game versus Uruguay) is awesome, and the fact that they are on U.S. soil means a chance to get a taste of the 2026 home World Cup menu.

That run from the first friendly versus Colombia to the third group stage meeting with Uruguay is going to tell more about the team's progress under Gregg Berhalter than any other time besides the World Cup. It'll basically be a full month of games by the time the first knockout round game hits the calendar presuming the USMNT advance as expected from the group stage.

In fact, that month will provide as consistent a time for a national team to thrive as a World Cup. And failing an awful spate of injuries, the Yanks should hit the group stage finale versus Darwin Nunez and Uruguay as the sharpest and most together they've been under Berhalter. No pressure.

What did we learn about the USMNT this international break?

  • The players really, truly 'get it' — Watching the USMNT players throw their weight around against Mexico was refreshing for the fans as much as the rivalry. Both El Tri and the Yanks totally get the import of this rivalry, one of the best in international football. Christian Pulisic loves that Mexican fans jeer him. Tyler Adams relishes every tackle. The list goes on. It is so... much... fun to watch these games, and a reminder than you can make up as many tournaments as you want as long as people have World Cup knockout round history to fall back on. Oh, and saying dos a cero is still oh-so-sweet.

  • Internal pressure is making diamonds — How many USMNT players could manage a poor few months for their club and still start for the national team? For years, that figure was at least a half-dozen but that number may only be 3-4 now. There's reasonable competition at every position now, and who besides Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, and maybe Sergino Dest is an auto starter now? "Yunus Musah," you say, but then remember that if he starts then McKennie or Giovanni Reyna is unlikely to be out there. And both keep regular La Liga contributors out of the midfield (Luca de la Torre and Johnny Cardoso). Tim Ream started the final but Miles Robinson went in the semi. Haji Wright's super sub performance vs Jamaica saw him start over Folarin Balogun in the next outing. Matt Turner has kept his place so far but will he maintain it if Ethan Horvath is playing week-in, week-out while he watches Mats Sels play at Forest? Berhalter used to be a sucker for letting players rest on their laurels but it feels different now.

  • Ream #1 for summer... but what about 2026? Tim Ream was fantastic against Mexico and clearly the most consistent-performing center back in the pool. He's also an October birthday who will be 38 going on 39 during the World Cup. Cameron Carter-Vickers was injured this break and Auston Trusty not called up, while Chris Richards started both games, Miles Robinson looked good versus Jamaica, and Mark McKenzie did not get into either game. Throw in Matt Miazga (28) and Walker Zimmerman (30). Would you bet on one, two, or zero starters for game No. 1 of the World Cup being in mentioned in this paragraph?

  • Is there a center forward 1A in the pool, or just a bunch of 1Bs? Still 22 until July 3, Folarin Balogun is a heck of a player and has bagged three goals and two assists in 10 caps for the USMNT. Not a bad return considering the points came against Canada, Germany, Oman, Ghana, and Trinidad and Tobago. He's had an uneven year with Monaco but it's his first year since a transfer from Arsenal. But anything other than world-beating form opens the door for comparison, and Haji Wright, Ricardo Pepi, and Josh Sargent are right there. Brandon Vazquez and Jesus Ferreira aren't currently getting calls. Same question as above: Them, or the field?

  • It's only going to get more difficult to break into this team. Mark McKenzie and Kristoffer Lund were with the team but didn't see a minute. Jordan Pefok at Gladbach, Erik Palmer-Brown at Panathinaikos, and Richy Ledezma at PSV are with clubs whose names would've had other generations hailing them as saviors just for the connection We wrote about the crazy depth of the player pool last week. And here's a thought exercise for you: Charlotte FC 16-year-old Nimfasha Berchimas is one of my favorite USMNT prospects in years, a left winger with power, pace, and skill. And what's wonderful about him is that with the depth of wingers at the USMNT level, he will not be burdened with savior status any time soon because there are other wonderful assets righteously ahead of him. It is simply incredible how far MLS (and USL) clubs have come in 30 years.