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Gregg Berhalter says the USMNT need more friendlies against top opponents to get better

 If the United States hope to make an impact at the 2026 World Cup they must play more top teams like Germany, who they face in a friendly on Saturday, head coach Gregg Berhalter has said.

The match in East Hartford, Connecticut against the four-time world champions will be a litmus test of sorts for the U.S. and Berhalter is making sure his players are not intimidated.

"Any opportunity we get to play teams like this we want to do it," he told reporters on Friday. "It's not about being afraid of the result, being afraid of competing, it's about embracing these moments.

"And from now until the 2026 World Cup, if we could play Germany five times, Italy, Brazil, Argentina, we would do it. Because that's what's really going to strengthen this group."

USMNT vs top teams

The United States, along with Canada and Mexico, host the 2026 finals and will hope to fare better on home soil than last year in Qatar where they lost to Netherlands in the last 16.

Berhalter, 50, was at the helm of that squad but U.S. Soccer allowed his contract to expire last December in part due to issues with one of his top young players, Gio Reyna.

In Qatar, Berhalter was critical of Reyna's attitude and commitment and limited his playing time, which developed into a bitter public spat. Reyna's parents then told U.S. Soccer about a decades-old domestic violence incident involving Berhalter.

Berhalter admitted in January to kicking his now-wife in the legs following an argument early in their relationship but the accusations nearly cost him his job as U.S. Soccer launched an investigation.

The probe carried out by an independent law firm determined that Berhalter had made no effort to hide the incident from U.S. Soccer and he was rehired in June as head coach.

Berhalter, who had what he described earlier this month as a positive conversation with Reyna over Zoom "weeks ago", included the midfielder among the players called up for the friendlies against Germany and then Ghana on Tuesday in Nashville.

When asked on Friday about his relationship with the 20-year-old midfielder, Berhalter said they were "moving forward."

"I don't really want to talk too much about the past. It's about talking about the future, and Gio's done a great job this week in training," the coach added. "He looks really sharp, really strong."

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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