Clint Dempsey thinks that the 2024 Copa America might be a turning point for Gregg Berhalter, the current United States manager.

Over the World Cup, Berhalter’s squad fell just shy of expectations without completely missing the mark. Yet, when the contract of the 50-year-old ended, US Soccer might have appointed a more interesting candidate.

On the contrary, they rehired him—despite a nasty controversy involving Gio Reyna’s family that occurred off-field. During the six months that followed the controversy, the USMNT played with two different temporary head coaches.

When Berhalter took over in 2018, the US national soccer team was in turmoil after their elimination from the World Cup. Today, things are much better. While there have been bumps in the road and fair criticism along the way, overall, the previous five years have seen consistent improvement. That relative success does bring expectations with it for continued growth.

Knowing that the United States will be one of the hosts for the 2026 edition of the World Cup has raised the stakes to an unprecedented level. Even though they were hosting the World Cup in 1994, few people knew anything about the Stars and Stripes.

Getting past the Group Stage was considered a triumph back then. Still, everyone is counting on the United States to go even further in 2026. At this point, Berhalter is aiming for the Semi-Finals.

What did Dempsey say of Berhalter’s Copa America run?

Meanwhile, Berhalter is under more criticism than ever before due to his recent results. Not least in light of recent losses to Trinidad and Tobago in the Concacaf Nations League and Germany in an international friendly.

Now that the Copa America is almost here, Dempsey views it as a turning point that may determine how history remembers the national team coach. While discussing Berhalter’s tenure, the legendary striker made it clear that the next year would be more defining than the 2022 World Cup.

“I think Copa America is truly how you’re going to be graded for the team. And, you know, for the coaches, are we doing the right thing? Because you’re not going to get another bigger opportunity to do well in the World Cup on home soil in 2026. So, if you do well in [the Copa America] and you’re building towards something, then that’s great. But if you’re not, I think there’s still time to change things if you need to,” he told Daily Mail.

“You don’t do well, then you’re always on the chopping block. That’s what comes with every job, right? If you’re not performing, the question starts to be asked. So, I think there’s still time to show what you can do. But I think Copa America is going to be a huge test for this team and for this coach in terms of where we’re going.”

What did Dempsey say of Berhalter’s most recent friendly games?

Additionally, the squad led by captain Christian Pulisic has won friendly matches against Uzbekistan, Oman, and Ghana since Berhalter’s return. But Dempsey said that the current Black Stars squad is the weakest Ghana has ever fielded.

“No team in CONCACAF really did well in terms of the [Copa America] qualifying process…  But if you want to do something great, you’ve got to look outside of CONCACAF, right? You’ve got to look at what are the other best teams in the world. Otherwise, don’t talk about trying to do something special in the World Cup.”

PHOTOS: IMAGO.