Tyler Adams was first named USMNT captain

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DOHA, Qatar — The US men’s national team had gone 4 1/2 years without a consistent captain, but a historic World Cup was declared on the eve of the 2022 World Cup.

Tyler Adams will field the USMNT against Wales on Monday (2pm ET, Fox/Telemundo).

If he does, he will be the youngest-ever captain at that World Cup and the first black man to captain the United States during a World Cup.

He was promoted to the role at the age of 23 by his peers through a team vote this fall. Adams previously captained the team nine times, but only for one game each, on a rotating basis. For years, responsibility has been shared by a “guiding council” of players, which also includes Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, DeAndre Yedlin and Walker Zimmerman. In 56 games under head coach Gregg Berhalter since January 2019, 14 different players had worn the armband.

But shortly before the World Cup, Berhalter went to the management council and asked him about the future of the captaincy. They thought it best to appoint a permanent captain.

And Adams, a pit bull-like defensive midfielder from Wappingers Falls, New York, was always the most logical choice. He is a natural leader, with words and by example. “I want to keep the guys around me on the same level,” he said at a press conference on Sunday. “I don’t want to lose and then have to point the finger and say, ‘You failed me today.’ I just want to make sure everyone is on the same page in terms of intensity and mentality, no frustration – we all believe in the same thing. And yes, I think I’ve been doing this since I was young.”

DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 20: USA Captain Tyler Adams speaks to media prior to their game against Wales during the USA Press Conference at MMC on November 20, 2022 in Doha, Qatar.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

USMNT captain Tyler Adams speaks to the media ahead of Monday’s game against Wales in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

He joined USMNT in late 2017 at the age of 18, shortly after an aging group of players failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Since then, when healthy, he has been a rock on the starting lineup and a key figure in the USMNT youth movement. He moved from the New York Red Bulls to RB Leipzig in Germany and then last summer to Leeds United in the English Premier League, where he is already popular.

At 23, he’s the youngest US captain at a World Cup since 1950, but he’s already performing like a veteran.

He won’t quite be the first black player to wear the armband for USA in a World Cup game; Earnie Stewart in 2002. But Stewart replaced the injured Claudio Reyna, who returned a game later. Adams, on the other hand, will captain the USMNT throughout the tournament; he will be the first African American to do so.

And at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on Monday, he will march onto the field at the head of the most diverse USMNT ever. Twelve of the 26 players are black. And that matters in a sport that’s often considered a “rich white kid’s sport” in America.

“It’s no secret that African Americans are inclined towards basketball, American football, baseball, other sports,” McKennie said at a news conference Saturday. “In my neighborhood [in Texas], you rarely saw African American children playing soccer. So now to be able to do what we love and at the same time have an impact on the African American game is amazing because now they can look at it and say, ‘You know, that can be me.’ “

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