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Five USL Championship players who shone in the 2026 World Cup Qualifying window

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 06/12/24, 8:08AM EDT


Debut international goals and impressive all-around displays helped these players’ countries take positive steps forward

Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC's Jairo Henriquez was among the USL Championship players to find the net in the past week of 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifying across the continent.

More than 40 players from the USL Championship, League One and League Two were called up for international duty over the past week with most competing for countries trying to forge a path to the 2026 FIFA World Cup in the United States, Mexico and Canada.

Among them there were some standout performers from the Championship in Concacaf and CAF Qualifying. Here are five players that made an impact during their nation’s contests over the past seven days.

Oalex Anderson, St. Vincent and the Grenadines

In honesty, Vincy Heat’s results against Suriname and El Salvador – both defeats – means the side’s slim initial odds of advancing out of the second stage got even smaller. At the same time, Oalex Anderson continued to prove why he’s been the country’s attacking talisman, scoring in both contests to move his international record to 20 goals in 39 senior international appearances. North Carolina FC will be hoping he can bring that form back home as it aims to push on for a place in the postseason later this campaign. 

Nicolas Cardona, Puerto Rico

El Huracan Azul has positioned itself well in Group F and Nicolas Cardona’s play in its opening two games was a big reason why. The Miami FC center back was among Puerto Rico’s best performers in a 0-0 draw on the road against El Salvador, winning 10 of 13 duels and 2 of 2 tackles while making four clearances, and then he bagged a goal and assist in the side’s 8-0 rout of Anguilla on Tuesday night to set the side in second place ahead of its crucial game with group leader Suriname next June.

Jairo Henriquez, El Salvador

After going more than a calendar year without a win, La Selecta finally got back in the win column against St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Sunday and Jairo Henriquez was central to that effort. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC’s attacking midfielder scored a spectacular opening goal to set El Salvador on its way to a 3-1 victory and had five shots and four chances created in 124 total minutes during the window to give the side a chance to advance to the next stage and provide some positive momentum for its Concacaf Nations League campaign this fall.

Jojea Kwizera, Rwanda

Having earned his first call-up for Rwanda this window, Jojea Kwizera couldn’t have timed his first goal for the country any better. He scored the winner in the side’s 1-0 victory against Lesotho on Tuesday to send the side to the top of Group C of CAF World Cup Qualifying, which while featuring traditional power Nigeria has become a free-for-all for the automatic spot at the World Cup. There’s still a long way to go, but alongside One Knoxville SC’s Innocent Nshuti there’s the potential for a real surprise here. 

Duke Lacroix, Haiti

The opportunity to represent Haiti has arrived later in Duke Lacroix’s career, but the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC defender started in both of the World Cup Qualifying victories for Les Grenadiers this window and bagged his first goal for the country on Sunday in its 3-1 victory against Barbados. As expected, Haiti is in strong position to advance to the next stage alongside Curaçao and there should be more opportunities for Lacroix to build on his experience in the upcoming Concacaf Nations League games this fall.

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