Rangers defender James Sands dropped from USA squad - but Celtic star included ahead of World Cup

The 22-year-old has been omitted by head coach Gregg Berhalter for their upcoming friendly double-header against Japan and Saudi Arabia.

Rangers defender James Sands has been left out of the USA squad just months before the FIFA World Cup begins in Qatar.

The New York City loanee has started the Ibrox side’s last nine consecutive matches at centre-back, which featured impressive performances against PSV Eindhoven to qualify for the Champions League group stages.

However, the 22-year-old struggled during back-to-back 4-0 defeats to Celtic and Ajax and has not been named among the 26-man squad selected by head coach Gregg Berhalter for the upcoming international break.

Napoli's Argentinian forward Giovanni Simeone (L) and Rangers' US midfielder James Sands vie for the ball during the UEFA Champions League Group A football match

Sands, who has seven caps to his name for the US national team, was involved in the previous international camp back in June, but he will be absent for friendly matches held in Germany against Japan and Saudi Arabia on September 23 and 27 respectively.

Light Blues team-mate Malik Tillman, currently on loan from Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich, has made the cut along with Celtic mainstay Cameron Carter-Vickers.

The former Tottenham Hotspur defender impressed during a season-loan loan from the London club last season and completed a £6million permanent move to Parkhead earlier this summer.

Berhalter confirmed he will use their final warm-up matches later this month to prepare for the World Cup final in November.

He said: “As we approach the World Cup, this is another opportunity for us to take a step forward as a group.

“We have a strong roster and can use these games as a measuring stick against World Cup opponents as we continue to gain valuable experience ahead of going out to Qatar.”

How could Sands omission effect World Cup spot?

Berhalter’s decision to drop James Sands from his squad for their double-header in a fortnight’s time will come as a major blow for the Rangers utility man.

Rangers’ US defender James Sands (C) kicks the ball during the first round Group A UEFA Champions League football match between Ajax and Rangers at The Johan Cruijff Arena

The Stars and Stripes have been placed in a blockbuster group alongside Euro 2020 runners-up England, as well as fellow home nation Wales and middle-east underdogs Iran.

Sands will be desperate to impress over the coming six weeks to prove to Berhalter he merits a spot on the plane to Qatar after the head coach stated his World Cup squad is “about 85% settled”.

With a packed fixture schedule to come, including a trip to face Liverpool at Anfield, Sands will know he requires a big performance to catch the national team’s eye.

His omission will come as a surprise to many observers after Sands was spotted dining out at the Blythswood Hotel in Glasgow with Berhalter just hours after Rangers Old Firm derby thrashing against rivals Celtic.

It appears he is currently on the periphery of the senior squad and must now produce a string of standout displays to nail down his ticket for Qatar.