Which 2022 Fire players could appear in the 2026 World Cup?

There are a handful of candidates to represent their country when the tournament comes to North America in four years.

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Xherdan Shaqiri has appeared in four World Cups for Switzerland.

Xherdan Shaqiri has appeared in four World Cups for Switzerland.

Alessandra Tarantino/AP

Midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri was the lone member of the Fire to compete in this World Cup (for Switzerland), making his fourth appearance in the world’s biggest tournament. Four years from now, the event is returning to North America and expanding to a record 48 teams.

Here are a handful of Fire players from 2022 who could be representing their countries in the 2026 World Cup.

Gabriel Slonina

Slonina is viewed as the future U.S. starting goalkeeper, and the U.S. men’s national team getting him to commit to its program over Poland’s was a sign that Slonina sees himself the same way. But that doesn’t mean Slonina will even be on the team in four years. Chelsea, which acquired him this past summer, must develop him properly, and he needs to be one of the top three goalies among himself, 2022 starter Matt Turner, Ethan Horvath, Zack Steffen, Roman Celentano and perhaps Sean Johnson. That goalkeeping depth also means the Fire’s Chris Brady probably would have to wait until 2030 at the earliest.

Jhon Duran

Once coach Ezra Hendrickson unleashed him, Duran, a striker, showed why his signing was such a coup for the Fire and why European giants are reportedly after his signature. Duran already debuted for the Colombian national team this fall. If he sharpens his game to match his athleticism, he figures to have a strong chance to play in 2026 if his country returns to the World Cup after missing out on Qatar.

Brian Gutierrez

Gutierrez’s stock continues to rise after a strong 2022, both for the Fire and the U.S. Under-20 team. Outside of Shaqiri, he’s the Fire’s most technically gifted player and has plenty of room to grow over the next four years. The U.S. midfield is crowded, and to get looks with the senior team, Gutierrez must translate his potential into production, whether it’s with the Fire or a club in Europe.

Jairo Torres

Just 22 now, Torres should be coming into his prime in four years. Mexico, which crashed out of this World Cup in the group stage, will be under immense pressure to do much better in 2026, when El Tri will be one of the home teams. Torres, a winger, will have to raise his game considerably from what he showed with the Fire this year to make that roster. But there’s still time.

Chris Mueller

Two years ago, Mueller looked like he was on the verge of becoming a strong contender for a spot with the USMNT. But a quiet 2021 in Orlando and then an ill-fated move to Scottish side Hibernian derailed him. He’ll be 29 in four years, but his path is complicated by the U.S. strength on the wings.

Xherdan Shaqiri

Shaqiri will turn 35 in October 2026, and it’s hard to see him remaining in the Swiss picture into his mid-30s or continuing to play internationally for that long. Then again, Shaqiri always produces for Switzerland, and his deft skill and set-piece ability could age gracefully enough for him to stay in contention if he wants.

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