WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The future is now for the United States' forward-in-waiting Josh Sargent.
"Josh [Sargent] will start the game tomorrow so he has a great opportunity," head coach Gregg Berhalter said during a Thursday afternoon news conference ahead of Friday's CONCACAF Nations League opener against Cuba at Audi Field. "It will be nice to see how he can perform tomorrow in the context of the team performance."
It will be the 19-year-old Werder Bremen player's second-straight start -- he went 75 minutes in a 1-1 friendly draw against Uruguay in September -- and his third straight appearance for the American side.
While some, including former U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, have downplayed the value of Nations League competition, Berhalter believes the match against Cuba, and Tuesday's game versus Canada in Toronto, have real value in preparing his side for World Cup qualification.
"It's important to mix in friendlies against high caliber opponents but it's also important for us to play our part in CONCACAF and understand that this is a competition," he said. "It's an opportunity for us to go out on the road and compete. And there's a trophy up for grabs. In general, I think this is good preparation for World Cup qualifying. And good experience for the group at this stage of its development.
"For us, it's important in a way that we get to compete against CONCACAF teams. We get to play away games. We get to prepare our group for the rhythm of what World Cup qualifying looks like. For us, these games are important."
Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie agreed with his coach about the importance of the games.
"It's good preparation for us to get used to World Cup qualifiers," he said. "Playing home and away, I think it's really important for us to know how important home games are for us and to get the wins while we are here. And when we do go play an away game, I think it's important for us to go in with the idea of winning it.
"We're playing for something: to be first and to be best in CONCACAF."