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Qatar | Elo: 49 | FIFA: 50

History: On December 2nd,  2010, The International Federation of Football(FIFA) declared that Qatar would host the Middle-East’s first Coupe du Monde. The decision sparked outrage, a bevy of accusations, and a steady stream of controversy, obscuring one of the more remarkable on-field turn-arounds in international football.  When Al Enabbi were awarded the crown jewel of sport, The Maroon were ranked 114th(FIFA) having managed just 1 win across 8 games in the final round of AFC – The Asian Football Confederation – World Cup Qualification. Less than a decade later, Qatar were the champions of Asia, ranked 55th after a shock title run featuring wins over heavyweights UAE, South Korea, and Japan. In 10 Asian Cups before the 2019 edition, Qatar had managed a paltry 6 wins, garnering 27 points from 32 outings. In 2019, they won all 7 fixtures, scoring 19, and conceding once. 

A British protectorate until 1971, Qatar was a relatively late-comer to international soccer, opening its football program with a 2-1 loss to fellow ex-protectorate Bahrain. Qatar would gain independence a year later, making The Maroon eligible for World Cup Qualification in 1974. Qatar withdrew in 74 but would debut 4 years later in the 78 tournament with a 2-0 win against… Bahrain; they lost their next 3 matches – including a 3-0 defeat to the Bahrainis – and finished last. They’d fall well short in 82; but managed to beat Bahrain a 2nd time in Bahrain’s only qualification match. It was the 81 U20 World Cup where Qatar made its first real mark reaching the final after wins against England and Brazil with a team developed by Qatar’s storied Aspire Academy. 8 years later that generation reached its zenith coming within a point of the 1990 World Cup. They came close again in 98 and picked up their first piece of silverware in the 92 Arabian Gulf Cup where they finished 2 points clear of 2nd place… Bahrain.

Amid a deepening pool of Asian teams, and a limited talent pool, Qatar returned to mediocrity in the 2000’s. With political incentives for Qatari soccer to improve, The Qatar Football Association took a more unconventional approach to team building. Aspire Academy started tracking young players across the world as Qatar’s government broke its own citizenship laws to naturalize the most talented kids they could find. Aspire Academy would end up tracking millions of players.  For a country with a population that barely passed 1 million, this meant artificially multiplying the talent base several times over. Though not without controversy, this approach proved remarkably effective with Aspire Academy’s work laying the seeds for unprecedented highs. 

This November we’ll see the culmination of one of football’s most ambitious projects. Qatar are good now. They’ll have a chance to show how good. Was 2019 a peak? Or was it the precursor for something greater?

The world is watching. For better or worse, Qatar is in its eye.


Expected Finish: 2nd



Hosts do well. All but one host nation in this near century-spanning tournament has successfully reached round two.  Of the 7 hosts who had never advanced past round one, only one fell at the first hurdle. That casualty was South Africa – ranked 63(Elo) – who missed out, via tiebreaker, in a group with reigning finalists France, eventual semi-finalists Uruguay, and perennial progressors El Tri. According to Elo and FIFA, Qatar is significantly better than South Africa was. They also face, arguably, the easiest set of opponents in the tourney.

Qatar’s players have also played together, alot. Not only do all 26 call-ups play in the same league, but this roster is virtually identical to the one we saw in the 2019 Asian Cup, the 2021 Copa America, and the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Beyond that, all of these players developed together in the Aspire Football Academy meaning most of them have been learning how to play with each other for more than a decade. Simply put, It’s possible the players of The Maroon will have the best chemistry of any national team that has ever participated in a World Cup Finals.

Qatar demonstrated proof of concept with their performance in the 2019 Asian Cup. Winning is one thing, perfection is another. Qatar were the first team to win every game at the Asian Cup since 1974, where Iran won 4 games to clinch a 6 team tournament headlined by relative minnows Kuwait and China. Qatar won 7 out of 7 games to clinch a 16 team tournament featuring maybe the deepest pool of quality teams to ever grace the continent. In other words, the last time Qatar played in the Middle East, they put together, arguably, the most impressive continental performance in Asian history.  For comparison, perceived favorites Senegal received much acclaim for an AFCON – African Cup of Nations – win where they played much weaker opponents and fared significantly worse.

Many-a pundit view The Maroon as minnows. I disagree. 


Why not?

The 2019 Asian Cup was a while ago. More recent showings aren’t as promising. In the 2019 Copa America they finished last in a group with Argentina, Colombia, and Paraguay. The latter two failed to qualify; Paraguay didn’t even come close. South America is tough, but Ecuador managed.

Their most recent set of competitive games came in the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup hosted – and won – by the USMNT(United States Men’s National team). At first glance, they did ok; reaching the semi-final and losing to the eventual champion  – in unlucky fashion – at their opponent’s backyard. Context paints a different picture. Qatar  was one of a handful of sides to send a full-strength team to North America. They beat Honduras and Grenada – two teams who fell well short of world cup qualification – convincingly, tied a Panamanian team depleted by injury, and were an offside-call away from blowing a 3-goal lead to non-qualifier El Salvador. In the semi-final they faced a team of American reserves, succumbing to an attack spearheaded by Matthew Hoppe; currently playing left-bench with championship side Middlesborough.

Qatar look good when their opponents sit-back and give Qatar space. They look less good when the opposition pushes their lines and presses Qatar’s playmakers. This was the story of their matches against El Salvador and the US where they were dominant in  the first half  and got overrun in the second. They’re particularly vulnerable in transition and their three group-mates all have an abundance of pace. 

There’s also a deficit in player quality. Qatar ranks 32 of 32 in both of our talent measures; away from home, they’ve looked the part.


The good news is these games are at home. While there is certainly a case against The Maroon, I’m banking on history.


Key Players

2019 Asian footballer of the year, Club World Cup bronze medalist, and arguably the greatest player in the history of the Qatar Stars league, Akram Afif is Qatar’s best player(ever). A phenomenal playmaker, neat on the ball, and a threat to score from just about anywhere, Afif will need to perform for Qatar’s offense to click. Afif has appeared 9 times in La Liga for Sporting Gijon making him the only player in the pool with top league experience.

Almoez Ali is one of the few players, ever, to be the top scorer of two continental competitions; in two separate continents. He won the golden boot – and was named best player – at the 2019 Asian Cup with a record-breaking 9 tallies. 2 years later, at the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup, Almoez scored 4 times in 5 games to be top scorer again. Ali was also named to the IFFHS AFC Men’s Team of the Decade to go along with an undisputed case as Qatar’s lead talisman. With 42 goals in 85 appearances, the Al Duhail striker will need to produce for Qatar to advance. Ali’s also a decent bet for goal of the tournament.


Netherlands | Elo: 4 | FIFA: 8

History: Behold The Oranje. With three appearances in the final, and no appearances at the winner’s podium, the Dutch are uncontested as the World Cup’s greatest bridesmaid. They are one of six national teams to reach the final three separate times. They are one of seven national teams to reach five semi-finals; but they are not one of the eight teams to hoist the Jules Rimet. What they’ve done is actually harder than just winning it all, even if it’s less satisfying.

Recent heart-breaks have been particularly potent. In 2010, entering South Africa as a dark horse, The Flying Dutchmenliterally at times – huffed and fouled their way to a perfect finals run – including a come-back win against No.1 ranked Brazil – before succumbing in overtime to No.2 ranked Spain. 2014 started sweetly, with a flying dutchman putting La Roja to the sword. The dish turned sour in the semis in a shoot-out loss to the Argentines. 2018 ended before it began. Needing a top two finish in a qualification group with two eventual quarterfinalists, The Oranje could only manage third. Their female counterparts had an inspired run to the 2019 World Cup final where they… lost to an American juggernaut.

Before the Dutch were bridesmaids, they were minnows, combining for 2 appearances – and 0 points – for the first 40 years of the Wereldbeker. Then, upon a Cruyff-faced wave, the Dutch entered 74 as the favorite. They lost… in the final. They entered 78 without Cruyff and reached the final once more; then lost to Argentina.  While The Oranje’s style of play – the quintessential example of positional football – left a legacy so strong that the 74 and 78 Dutch sides are still regarded as one of the greatest teams ever, winners they were not. I would be remiss not to mention that the Dutch managed a singular European triumph in 88, but that’s really not the same.

Once more the Dutchmen will swim against a tide, and once more they will dare to escape it. Will the soccer gods finally smile down on Johan’s children?


Expected Finish: 1st



They are the most talented team, ranking top 10 in both TMV and WCDCS. They have been the best team, ranking top 10 in Elo and FIFA. They are undefeated in 15, have won their last six group games in their competition, and have a stronger track record at this tournament than the other three teams combined.

Why wouldn’t you pick them?


Why not?

Qualification was not easy. A loss to Turkey along with ties against Norway, Scotland, and Montenegro put the Netherlands in a precarious position in their final qualification match. Needing to not lose, the Dutch comfortably beat Haaland-less Norway, thereby booking their ticket to Qatar. That might be less impressive than Ecuador booking qualification from South America with games to spare.

The Netherlands also can’t say they’re continental champions, having lost to the Czech Republic in the Round of 16 at the 2021 European Championship. Perhaps they’ll falter before the champions of Asia and Africa.

While the Dutch aren’t allergic to build-up, they’re often direct. Transition offense is typically less effective when opposing defenses leave less space behind.  Both Senegal and Ecuador leave extra players back when they attack. This makes both unusually difficult to break down. Ecuador in particular has a knack for peeling off points from more talented teams.

The Dutch are clear favorites, but they are not invincible.


Key Players

Barcelona starlet Frenkie de Jong may be the Netherland’s most essential piece for successfully surviving this phase of the competition. Facing two sides that usually give little, the Netherlands will rely on de Jong being a reliable metronome in the middle of the pitch. Gifted with the ball, and a strong orchestrator under pressure, Netherlands may well rely on Frenkie’s progression and ball-security to successfully navigate the group stage.

Matthijs De Ligt is world class. An attacking midfielder in his youth, De Ligt is the center-back equivalent of a 5-tool player. He’s a great passer, is strong and fast. Is excellent positionally, and is a threat in the air. In 2018 De Ligt won the golden boy awarded to Europe’s most impressive young player. In 2022, the 23 year old already has a strong claim as The Oranjes best player. If there is to be total triumph in Qatar, Matthijs will have to deliver.


Senegal | Elo: 43 | FIFA: 16 |

History: Enter the African Champion. In 2002, the Lions of Teranga conjured magic. As France fell, Senegal soared, becoming the second African team to reach the quarter-finals. In 2022, Senegal carries the hopes of a continent. The world still waits for an African semi-finalist. To many, Senegal is the continent’s best hope

Senegal won independence from France in 1960. The Senegalese Football Federation(FSF) formed later that year. In 1963 Senegal joined the Confederation for African Football(CAF), before debuting at the African Cup of Nations in 1965. With a win, a draw, and a loss, Senegal finished 4th. In 1968, they repeated that trick to finish 5th. They entered World Cup Qualification in 1970; their debut came in a two-legged playoff against Morocco where a 1-goal win for each country turned a two-legged tie into a three-legged tie. Morocco won game three. In 1974 Senegal ran into Morocco again, and again, the lions fell. 

Senegal wouldn’t progress past the first round of qualification until the format changed in 1994. After winning their group in round one, they were drawn with Zambia and… Morocco. Morocco finished first to qualify. Senegal finished last. In 1998 they went back to falling at the first hurdle, losing a two-legged playoff to Togo. They returned to the second round in 2002, via a narrow win against Benin, only to be grouped with CAF heavy weights Algeria, Egypt, and… Morocco. To qualify for the World Cup Finals, the Lions of Teranga would need to win their group. And so they did. With a record of 4 wins, 3 draws, and 1 loss, Senegal finished with 15 points, scraping by their long-time tormentors on goal-difference. The rest is history. 

Alas, 2002 was a flash. Senegal failed to qualify for the next three tournaments, only returning to the Coupe du Monde in 2018, on the crest of a golden generation headlined by Sadio Mane. In Russia, they would miss out by the slimmest of margins, becoming the first team to be eliminated from the group stage on yellow card accumulation. In 2019, the lions reached their first AFCON final, only to lose on penalties. In the 2021 AFCON, Senegal faced another finals shootout. This time they won; Sadio Mane scored the winning kick. Senegal won another shoot-out to qualify for Qatar, making consecutive world cups for the first time in their history. Sadio Mane, once again, scored the winning kick.

And so enters the African champion, on the wings of a generation more talented than any that came before, carrying the weight of a continent.

Will they rise? Or will they crumble?


Expected Finish: 3rd



Senegal have talent, experience, and a favorable group. What they don’t have, is results. A win against Poland in 2018 has largely buoyed their FIFA ranking, but when we turn to the more reactive measure of Elo, we see they’ve dropped to 43rd. Yes Senegal are the champions of Africa, but only two African champions have ever progressed from the group-stage.

If we look at how Senegal became the champions of Africa, the Lions of Teranga don’t look so good. In a group with Malawi(140th), Zimbabwe(130th), and Guinea(110th), Senegal’s only goal was a 97th minute penalty. For reference, let’s take a look at Canada(29), a team that finished first in qualification from a region where winning continentally actually translates abroad. When Canada faced comparably ranked Suriname(127th), they won by four. When Suriname faced lower ranked Bermuda(160th), they won by six. Bermuda’s ranking may undersell them. Nakhi Wells is probably a better player than anyone on Malawi or Zimbabwe.

Egypt(53rd) is the best team Senegal have faced in a meaningful match over the last two years. In three games against this colossus, Senegal won(1-0), tied(0-0), and lost(1-0). If this was a three-legged tie, it would have gone to penalties. Of course, there aren’t shoot-outs in the group stage. If Senegal can’t score, they will not win.

To make matters worse, Sadio Mane is injured. For a team that barely scores with one of the best attackers on the planet, missing Mane may prove difficult.

Even without Mane, Senegal are still, theoretically, good enough. But as many-a African side can attest, theory doesn’t get you out of the groups.


Why not?

Senegal have talent, experience, and a favorable group. The Lions of Teranga rank top 16 in both TMV and WCDCS. This is also effectively the same team that played in the last World Cup, the last two AFCON’s, and the last two World Cup qualifying cycles. 

Even without Mane, Senegal has a number of players at the best clubs of Europe. They should be as ready for this stage as anyone. Mane also isn’t entirely ruled out for the tournament.

Senegal has the pieces to succeed. But the puzzle hasn’t quite come together.


Key Players

Formerly named the best defender in Italy, and a 4-time participant on the Serie A team of the year, Kalidou Koulibaly is the centerpiece for one of the world cup’s more resolute defenses. With a rare combination of strength, agility, and skill, the Chelsea center-back is obviously very good. What may not be so obvious is Koulibaly’s value in attack. Senegal’s offense is largely based on playing long passes to runners. A big reason why Senegal are so hard to score on is that the lions often avoid throwing up numbers when they attack. This means that most of Senegal’s ball-progression stems from accurate deep-lying passes. Senegal’s best deep-lying passer is… Kalidou Koulibaly. Koulibaly will need to perform for both Senegal’s defense and offense to click.

Sadio Mane is a world-class attacker. One of the key pieces for a historically great Liverpool side, Mane’s injury is a big blow. While the floor won’t necessarily fall out, Mane’s health will determine Senegal’s ceiling. Assuming it all comes together, the lions have enough to survive their group without Mane. Anything else is a big ask. If Senegal is to break through and become the first African representative in a World Cup semi-final, they’ll probably need Mane to make a quick return.


Ecuador | Elo: 44 | FIFA: 18 |

History: On May 30th, 1925, the Federación Deportiva Nacional del Ecuador, was founded. Shortly after, La Tricolor were granted an automatic invitation to the first World Cup. Ecuador declined. On June 2nd, 2002,  La Tri got their first taste of World Cup football, more than 70 years later, in a 2-0 loss to Italy. 

Drinking from the well seems to have made La Tri greedy. 2022 will mark their 4th successful qualification in 6 attempts. Considering they play the world’s most difficult qualifiers, it’s a remarkable accomplishment. 

More remarkable is the fact they’ve won, at least once, at each finals they’ve participated in. In 2002, they won twice, progressing to the round of 16 with emphatic victories over Costa Rica and Poland. England ended their run in the knockouts, but the tournament was indisputably a success.

Ecuadors journey to the finals was arduous. 62 marked La Tri’s maiden campaign. Put in a home and home playoff against Argentina, Ecuador were lost by a combined scoreline of 11-3 after a trashing in Guayaquil, and a massacre at Buenos Aires. 66 went significantly better. With two wins against Colombia, Ecuador finished level on points with Chile. A one-off playoff on neutral ground would decide qualification. Ecuador lost 2-1. They wouldn’t win another qualifier until 1982 picking up a paltry 4 points from 12 matches. 98 marked the first time they’d strung together 2 wins in a single campaign as they finished only 4 points off the last qualification spot. That qualification spot was occupied by… Chile. 94 was particularly pathetic. Coming off a best ever 4th place finish in the 93 Copa America, Ecuador won one of 8 qualifiers.

2002 went differently. Having won 11 times in their first 55 qualification matches, La Tri won 9 of 18 to finish 2nd and cruise to their first finals. Their path to Qatar was similar with Ecuador winning 7 of their first 14 to help book an early ticket to Doha.

With the 4th youngest team in the tournament, a cadre of promising prospects, and a general sense that La Tri-color are more than the sum of their parts, there is plenty to be excited about…

…but is there enough to win?


Expected Finish: 4th



Ecuador’s track record in qualification is impressive, particularly at home where they won 5 times while losing only once. What they’ve managed away from home is more concerning. In qualification they only managed 2 wins away from La Casa Blanca. Both came against teams that failed to reach the World Cup. They haven’t fared much better on neutral ground, picking up no wins in 5 matches at the most recent Copa America.

While Ecuador has historically been characterized as a team that plays fun, attacking soccer, their current iteration is slower and more defensive-minded. It worked well enough at home, but will it translate here against a slate of teams that specialize in transition?

While there are promising youngsters, La Tri has a deficit in actualized talent, ranking among the bottom half of participants TMV and WCDCS. Have favorable conditions at home papered over the cracks? Ecuador may just not be that good; and unlike Qatar, they can’t count on experience, familiarity, or the comforts of home carrying them through.

Facing a host, and two teams with considerably better players, La Tricolor might be out of their depth.


Why not?

Ecuador ranks 18th in Elo, reflecting that they have had, by a margin, the second best form in the group. They didn’t play the best possible lineups in the Copa America and doing badly away is a world-wide phenomenon. 

They are strong on set-pieces, have gotten several competitive results against some of the best teams in the world, and have a cadre of promising youth ready to outlast older opposition in what will be one of the hottest world cups on record.

South American teams usually advance, Irregardless of how they qualify. Ecuador have held their own against the best teams in the most difficult conditions.

This wouldn’t be the first time someone dismissed Ecuador as a team that can only win at home. They were wrong then. Maybe I’m wrong now.

Group A is one of those rare World Cup groups where you can make a strong case for all four teams advancing. I don’t think they will, but I’d love to see Ecuador prove me wrong.


Key Players

The star man on a Brighton side that has wildly overperformed expectations, Moises Caicedo is Ecuador’s best player. A do-it-all midfielder who can create, progress, and defend at a high level, Ecuador will need Moises at his best to advance.

Piero Hincapie is one of the better defenders in the Bundesliga. Strong on the ball, and excellent positionally, Hincapie is the anchor of La Tri’s defense. On a team that can struggle for goals, Hincapie will be vital for keeping the other team off the score-sheet.


Predicted Group Standings










For more info on the methodology click here.

Group Previews:










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USMNT Kits Come in Different Styles and Colors



Thomas Deschaine (@uskeeper on X and us_keeper on Instagram)

US Soccer kit releases are something fans get excited about and lately have resulted in disappointment. US Soccer’s recent schedule for kits release during the cycle has seen them releasing another road and or third kits in Gold Cup years and home and away pairs in the even years. 

US Soccer is expected to release the 2024 Copa America kits for the USMNT in the coming weeks headed into the Nations League Finals. Last Thursday evening Footy Headlines, who has had a good track record of leaking USMNT kits in the past, provided the below pictures of the home and away USMNT kits. These kits haven’t officially been announced by Nike or US Soccer, but the anticipated announcement is expected in the coming weeks headed into the Nations League Final.

Photo from – February 29, 2024

Fake Leaked USMNT Kits

The below USMNT kits were leaked over the last decade, but none of them came to fruition, it’s fun to look at what could have been for the USMNT.

2014 World Cup Kits

These leaked kits headed into the 2014 FIFA World Cup were where loved by many USMNT fans due to the sash and the use of the Centennial Crest, but unfortunately, these kits were fakes and never released.

Photo from SportsLogos.Net – September 13, 2013

2015 Alternative Kit & 2016 Copa America

Generally, US Soccer releases an alternate kit in the years that the Gold Cup is played. This leak kit was reported back in 2015 by NBCSports and then again by MLS Soccer when it was suggested it could be used during the Copa América Centenario.

Photo from NBCSports – April 2, 2015

2022 World Cup Kits

I would have much preferred for the USMNT to have worn these kits at the 2022 FIFA World Cup when they ended up, but alas it was another leaked kit that never was. 

Photo from – May 6, 2022

2024 Copa America Kit

This rumored kit for the USMNT was based on similar kits worn by the USMNT at the 1924 Olympics and the 1930 World Cup.

Photo from via – September 14, 2023

History of US Soccer Crest and USMNT kits

Over ten years ago I began my research of USMNT soccer data in search of a single source site, which I quickly found didn’t exist. Through my research, I started to comply with old USMNT kits and crests from the past. As I acquired more and more kits worn by the USMNT and was able to start to fill in the gaps between them I decided to digitally recreate these kits and share them with the USMNT fans. 

Here’s a look at what I was able to find while it seems like a lot I am sure there are many more kits I missed and if so I would love to know which ones so I could create and update what I have already.

History of US Soccer Crests

Here’s the history of the US Soccer crests. I had to recreate several of these crests based on old pictures I found throughout my research since there were no digital images available. 

USMNT Kits – 1916-1973

These were the first kits worn by the USMNT which weren’t sponsored. There are variations of these kits worn by the USMNT which comprised of variations of crests and styles, likely due to available funds during this time. My favorite kits in the group are the ones with the sashes from the 1928 and 1936 Olympics and the 1959 Pan American Games

USMNT Kits – 1974-1983

The group of kits for the USMNT were the first that were sponsored by Adidas. There were a lot of similar styles of kits during this time which really lacked any creativity. My favorite kits in the group are the ones from the middle to late 1970s, there is something about their simplicity and clean look. 

USMNT Kits – 1984-1994

Adidas’s 20-year run of creating kits for US Soccer ended in 1994, with few quality kits made during those couple of decades, which is ironic considering how nice Adidas’s kits are today. My favorite kits in the group are the 1985/1986 blue hoop kit and the 1988 Blue Olympic kit.

USMNT Kits – 1995-2011

In 1995 Nike took over the creation of the US Soccer kits and started by making three similar kits for the 1995 Copa America and 1996 third kit for the US Cup. Nike did release three Special Edition kits in 2003, 2004, and 2006, which were only worn for one match each. My favorite kits in the group all had a sash on them, which were both the 2010 World Cup kits and the red 2011 Gold Cup kit. 

USMNT Kits – 2012-Current

Most USMNT fans would agree that recent kits released by Nike haven’t held the standard seen in the 2010s, where the hoops/stripes that some many fans loved for the 2012 Waldo kits were incorporated. My unsung kits of this group are the 2018 home kit, which would have been worn at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and the 2017 Gold Cup kit. 

USMNT Kits going forward

Nike and US Soccer signed what was considered a historical long-term sponsor agreement, in November 2021, that went into effect in Janaury 2023 that will run for at least a decade which will cover the 2026 FIFA World Cup and 2028 Summer Olympics and possibly a 2027 or 2031 Women’s World Cup hosted in the United States, so for fans who has hoped for a different kit creator they will have to wait a while.

Once the 2024 Copa America kits are released US Soccer will likely only release one more kit for the 2025 Gold Cup for the USMNT before releasing the 2026 World Cup kits. One idea that I’ve had for a long time was for US Soccer to release Special Edition Kits with styles from the past, with the limited release of those kits, coupled with playing matches in locations and venues throughout the United States to build the fan base and excitement for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

In conclusion, I am somewhat optimistic that US Soccer and Nike will create some variation of the 2012 Waldo kit & 1994 Stats and Denim kit to be worn as the hosts of the 2026 World Cup.

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2024: A Pivotal Year for the USMNT



Thomas Deschaine (@uskeeper on X/Formally Twitter)

Photo From: USA Today-John Locher, AP – 18, June 2023 – 2023 Concacaf Nations League 

As the fog hovered over Estadio Parque Artigas Stadium in Paysandú, Uruguay in the 58th minute Eric Wynalda received the ball on the right wing with Joe-Max Moore making a run forward and in front of  Wynalda who delivered a pass to Moore who then went down preventing the ball from being taken away and sending it back to Wynalda who slides forward and scores the third goal of the match and his third goal of the tournament, making it 3-0 USA over tenth-ranked Argentinians and all but sealing the win and the top spot in Group C at the 1995 Copa America. The win for this USMNT consisted of 17 players from the 1994 World Cup team who reached their pinnacle with this group of players finishing fourth at this Copa America.

Over the previous three decades, the USMNT has had some of the biggest wins in the team’s history. During the 1999 Confederations Cup, which was played in Mexico the USMNT played a hard-fought match against the fifth-ranked Germans defeating them 2-0 in the final group stage match and finishing third overall in the tournament. The USMNT would also have an even bigger result against second-ranked Spain in the semi-finals of the 2009 Confederations Cup when they ended Spain’s 35-game unbeaten streak in a 2-0 victory that would send them to the final against Brazil.

2024 is the midway point of the 2026 FIFA World Cup cycle, and the next two windows for the USMNT who as a team and federation need to start ascending to their apex with this group to ensure that they have an amazing performance at the 2026 World Cup.

The USMNT has already played their first match, a 1-0 defeat to Slovenia, but need to quickly focus on the March window 2024 CONCACAF Nations League Finals where they will play Jamaica in the semi-final round and a win would put the USMNT in their third straight Nations League Final where they would have a chance to play either Mexico or Panama and win their third straight Concacaf Nations League trophy.

Some 90 days later the USMNT will be kicking off only their fifth appearance at the Copa America Tournament, with the stakes for this group at an all-time high and where success is demanded from the players, coaches, fans, and the federation. Will this current group of USMNT players and coaches be able to progress to the next level against the elite teams of CONMEBOL? It’s worth noting that the USMNT has finished fourth twice at Copa America in 1995 and 2016, however, the USMNT finished 32nd at the 1998 World Cup and failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

The U-23 USMNT will also be playing the Olympics for the first time since 2008, which provides a great opportunity for those U-23 players to get noticed on a big stage. There are many eligible players who if released by their clubs will have a great opportunity to impress while helping the U-23 USMNT make a deep run at the 2024 Olympics in France.

As it becomes increasingly harder for the USMNT to schedule non-Concacaf opponents the US Soccer Federation will need to get creative in who and where they schedule these Friendly matches. The June window offers up the best opportunities for the USMNT to schedule matches against other CONMEBOL teams, preferably in Groups A and B which feature Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela

Edgar Moreno on X, formally Twitter, reported that the USMNT and Colombia have scheduled a Friendly headed into Copa America. It was also reported on that Colombia will be scheduling a total of four matches leading into the tournament, two of which will be taking place in Europe. While there are challenges with timing and logistics around scheduling Friendlies with UEFA teams, USSF really needs to do everything possible to secure a similar type of schedule headed into Copa America but, rarely schedules USMNT Friendlies outside of the FIFA International window, which Colombia would need to do to make that schedule work. 

 It has been recently rumored that the USMNT might close to scheduling a Friendly with Colombia headed into Copa America. The September and October windows have few quality opponents available, at the time of the article it appears that the September window could be an opportunity to play schedule matches with teams from the CAF Confederation, but those matches would likely need to be played at neutral sites in Europe. 

2024 USMNT Window

MarchJune WindowCopa AmericaSeptemberOctoberNovember
CNL Finals                 March 18-26Friendlies            June 3-11                                  June 20-July 14Friendlies           Sept. 2-10Friendlies           Oct. 7-15CNL quarterfinals       Nov. 11-19

Below are eight years since the 1994 cycle that at the time were considered big years for the USMNT as they were playing in FIFA tournaments against teams from other confederations. Below is a look at how they fared.


6 Wins, 4 Draws, 11 Losses, GF-21, GA-27

Third Place at the King Fahd Cup renamed Confederations Cup in 1997 edition.

First at U.S. Cup (Participating teams –Ireland, Italy & Portugal)

Top Goal Scorers

5-Eric Wynalda
3-Hugo Perez
3-Marcelo Balboa
2-Bruce Murray
2-John Harkes

Goalkeeper Stats

5 Wins – Tony Meola
4 Shutouts – Tony Meola

Photo From: Soccer International, Volume 3, Issue 12, December 1992


10 Wins, 11 Draws, 13 Losses, GF-45, GA-44

Twelfth place at Copa America 

Second Place at Gold Cup

Third Place at U.S. Cup (Participating teams – Brazil, England & Germany)

34 matches played 1st All-Time

11 Draws tied for 1st All-Time with 1994

13 Loses 1st All-Time

44 Goals Conceded 1st All-Time

Top Goal Scorers

8-Joe-Max Moore
7-Dominic Kinnear
4-Alexi Lalas
4-Thomas Dooley

Goalkeeper Stats

Photo From:  El Grafico Number 3847, June 16, 1993

7 Wins – Tony Meola
8 Shutouts – Tony Meola


5 Wins, 3 Draws, 6 Losses, GF-20, GA-18

Fourth Place at Copa America

First at U.S. Cup (Participating teams – Colombia, Mexico & Nigeria)

Top Goal Scorers

3-Eric Wynalda
2-Joe-Max Moore
2-Alexi Lalas
2-John Harkes

Goalkeeper Stats

3 Wins – Kasey Keller
2 Shutouts – Brad Friedel & Kasey Keller

Photo From: DIEGO GIUDICE Associated Press file, July 14, 1995


7 Wins, 2 Draws, 4 Losses, GF-19, GA-11

Third Place at Confederations Cup

Second Place at U.S. Cup (Participating teams – Bolivia, Guatemala & Mexico)

Top Goal Scorers

3-Joe-Max Moore
3-Brian McBride
2-Ben Olsen
2-Jovan Kirovski
2-Frankie Hedjuk

Goalkeeper Stats

2 Wins – Brad Friedel & Kasey Keller
2 Shutouts – Brad Friedel & Tony Meola

Photo From: FIFA Report- 1999 Mexico, July 30, 1999


10 Wins, 2 Draws, 4 Losses, GF-28, GA-10

Seventh Place at Confederations Cup

Third place at Gold Cup

Top Goal Scorers

7-Landon Donovan
4-Carlos Bocanegra
3-Brian McBride
3-Chris Klein

Goalkeeper Stats

6 Wins – Kasey Keller
5 Shutouts – Kasey Keller

Photo From: FIFA Confederations Cup, June 23, 2003


12 Wins, 1 Draws, 5 Losses, GF-31, GA-19

Twelfth Place at Copa America 

First Place at Gold Cup

Top Goal Scorers

9-Landon Donovan
3-Clint Dempsey
3- DaMarcus Beasley
2-Eddie Johnson
2-Benny Feilhaber
2-Carlos Bocanegra

Goalkeeper Stats

8 Wins – Tim Howard
4 Shutouts – Tim Howard

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Guillermo Legaria/EPA/Shutterstock (8021271j) Argentinean Striker Lionel Messi (r) and U S Mildfielder Ricardo Clarck Figth For the Ball During the Copa America Group C Soccer Match Argentina Vs Usa at the Pachencho Romero Stadium in Maracaibo Venezuela 28 June 2007 Venezuela Maracaibo Venezuela Soccer Copa America – Jun 2007

Photo From: Guillermo Legaria – FIFA Copa America, June 28, 2007 


13 Wins. 3 Draws, 8 Losses, GF-43, GA-36

Second Place at Confederations Cup

Second Place at Gold Cup

Top Goal Scorers

6-Jozy Altidore
5-Landon Donovan
4-Clint Dempsey
4-Michael Bradley
3- Sacha Kljestan
3- Charlie Davies

Goalkeeper Stats

7 Wins – Tim Howard
4 Shutouts – Tim Howard

Photo From: Jamie McDonald/Getty Images


12 Wins, 1 Draw, 6 Losses, GF-37, GA-20

Fourth Place at Copa America

Top Goal Scorers

6-Jozy Altidore
4-Bobby Wood
4-Clint Dempsey
3-Christian Pulisic
3-Gyasi Zardes

Goalkeeper Stats

8 Wins – Brad Guzan
6 Shutouts – Brad Guzan

Photo From: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Expectations for the in 2024 USMNT

The USMNT is expected to once again advance to the Nations League Final and with their full fit A Squad should be able to bring home their third Nations League trophy, but the 2024 Copa America tournament is very possible the most important non-World Cup the USMNT has even competed it. How success and failure will be determined by the USSF and fans will be interesting to follow. Gregg Berhalter has to prove that he can put together a roster, a formation that allows for simple and effective tactics that will allow the USMNT to not only compete against some top-tier nations but beat them. Success for me isn’t just advancing to the semi-finals of Copa America The USMNT needs to perform at the next level against the top-tier nations, something that I’ve only seen a handful of times in my nearly 35 years as a USMNT fan.

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USMNT’S Next Great Location



Where the USMNT Should Play Next and Why?


The largest USMNT home attendance of 93,869 took place at the 1994 World Cup in a 1-0 loss to Romania at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

The U.S. men’s national team announced last month that their only January Camp 2024 Friendly match would be played in the nearly 8,300-seat Toyota Field, home of the USL Championship team San Antonio FC. This marks only the third time USMNT has played a match in a USL venue, the last match was in March 2018, at WakeMed Soccer Park, in Cary, North Carolina. It also marked the 16th time that the USMNT will be playing a match at a venue with a capacity of less than 10,000 (USMNT have played 13 matches at 10,000 seat capacity). 

How and where USMNT decides to play matches has recently been scrutinized by fans who live in areas of the United States where matches are rarely — or never — played. Back in March 2023, the USMNT played their final Concacaf Nations League match in Orlando, making its sixth appearance in Orlando since Exploria Stadium opened in 2017. The USMNT has also played seven matches in the state of Ohio since the beginning of the 2018 cycle, four of which have been played in Cincinnati, which is tied for the second most matches played in a city since 2018. USMNT fans nationwide who haven’t been able to attend a local or regional match recently continue to ask why the same handful of venues continue to be selected, even for Friendly matches.  

Since the beginning of the 2018 cycle, the USMNT has played 62 home matches at 28 venues, but 10 of those venues have hosted three or more times. The USSF doesn’t have control over which venues the USMNT will play their Gold Cup and Nation League Finals matches, but it does with friendlies, World Cup Qualifiers, and all home Nations League matches. 

During the Gregg Berhalter era (yes, I am counting the six-ish months when Anthony Hudson and B.J. Callaghan coached) the USMNT played the second- and third-longest consecutive home match stretches; 15 consecutive home matches in 2019 and 14 consecutive home matches in 2023. Both were years when the Gold Cup was played. The longest stretch was in 1994 when the USMNT hosted the World Cup and played 17 consecutive home matches. As we look forward to 2024 it is possible that the USMNT could reach 16 consecutive home matches played if they can play the maximum amount of Copa America matches and don’t schedule any road or neutral location matches during the September and October windows.

When posting on X (formerly Twitter) about the match at Geodis Park in Nashville, Tennessee, the USMNT account said, “Another stadium to cross off the list,” which appears to be a jab at the USMNT fans about venue selection. The recently scheduled January Camp match scheduled in San Antonio isn’t the first time the USMNT has played in this city. They beat Costa Rica 1-0 in 1988 at Alamo Stadium and in 2015 beat Mexico 2-0 at the Alamodome.

Breaking Down Recent USMNT Home Matches

Below are the US Cities in which the USMNT has played since the beginning of the 2018 cycle up through the group stage matches of Copa America 2024.

Kansas City, Kansas*5
Orlando, Florida5
Arlington, Texas4
Austin, Texas4
Cincinnati, Ohio4
Nashville, Tennessee4
Carson, California3
Paradise, Nevada3
St. Louis, Missouri3
St. Paul, Minnesota3

Below are the US States in which the USMNT has played since the beginning of the 2018 cycle through the Copa America 2024 group matches.


*All three 2021 Gold Cup Group Stage matches were played at the same location.

In the past, locations and venue selection for World Cup qualifiers haven’t been ideal to ensure a true home-field advantage for the USMNT (see the 2018 World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica played at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey). The US Soccer Federation has started to rely on the same 7 or 8 venues for critical matches. But, with the USMNT not needing to qualify for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, USSF has a great opportunity to play in locations they have never played before, or at least in recent memory.

As it currently stands, the USMNT hasn’t played a match in 22 of the 50 states (plus the District of Columbia) and there are seven states in which the USMNT hasn’t played a match in nearly 10 years. Indiana, South Carolina, Louisiana, and Kentucky are the four most populated states to never host a USMNT match, and very much overdue to get matches scheduled at those locations.

One of the seven locations that haven’t seen the USMNT play in over 10 years is Michigan, which has seen two of the largest crowds to watch International Club soccer, the largest attendance of 109,318 in 2014 when Manchester United defeated Real Madrid 3-1 and the 2nd largest attendance of 105,826 in 2016 saw Real Madrid defeat Chelsea 3-2 both were played at the University of Michigan Stadium aka “The Big House”.

Which State or Venue Should the USMNT Play at Next?

Here’s a look at 10 locations/venues where I would like to see the USMNT play over the next couple of cycles. There are some challenges in getting matches scheduled in certain states and venues due to the playing surface not being grass or the venue not being the required size, which is the case in many of the NCAA football fields. 

The below graphic shows the regions where the USMNT has played or already scheduled  457 home matches, up through the Copa America 2024 group stage.


Protective Stadium Birmingham, Alabama
Birmingham Legion FC – USL Championship & UAB Blazers – NCAA Football
Capacity – 47,100


Under the management of Bruce Arena, the USMNT played three matches in Alabama during the 2002 and 2006 cycles, but haven’t returned in almost 18 years. 

Last three Matches played in Alabama

March 30, 2005 – 2-0 win vs Guatemala – Birmingham, Alabama – Legion Field – World Cup Qualifier

March 10, 2002 – 1-0 win vs Ecuador – Birmingham, Alabama – Legion Field – Friendly

March 12, 2000 – 1-1 draw vs Tunisia – Birmingham, Alabama – Legion Field – Friendly


War Memorial Stadium – Little Rock, Arkansas
Little Rock Rangers – USL2 & Secondary Home of Arkansas Razorbacks – NCAA Football
Capacity – 54,120

WholeHogSports - In UA's view, War Memorial in need of $10M update

Neither the US Men’s nor Women’s National teams have played a soccer match in the state of Arkansas. Another option could be to play at the recently announced expansion USL Championship team to be located in Northwest Arkansas. 

Last three Matches played in Arkansas

No matches played


New Aloha Stadium (2033 – 2038) – Honolulu, Hawaii
University of Hawaii – NCAA Football
Capacity – Expected 25,000 – 30,000


With a new Aloha Stadium expected to be built and hopefully finished in the next 10 years, playing a match in Hawaii seems more likely an option for the USMNT in the future, the perfect opportunity for a January camp location.

Back in 2015, the USWNT had a scheduled victory tour match at the current Aloha Stadium but was canceled on the day of the match because the artificial turf surface at the stadium was deemed unplayable. 

Last three Matches played in Hawaii

No matches played


Albertsons Stadium – Boise, Idaho
Boise State University – NCAA Football
Capacity – 36,387

Neither the USMNT nor the USWNT has ever played a match in Idaho, or any of the other surrounding states of Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. However, in 2015 a friendly match was scheduled at the home of Boise State University at Albertsons Stadium, which is known for its blue surface, aka “Smurf Turf.”  The Basque Soccer Friendly featured Athletic Bilbao of La Liga against Club Tijuana of Liga MX in front of a crowd of 21,948 with Athletic Bilbao winning 2–0.   

Last three Matches played in Idaho

No matches played


Future – Indy Eleven Stadium – Indianapolis, Indiana
Indy Eleven – USL Championship
Capacity – 20,000


The senior USMNT has never played in the state of Indiana. The B Team, however, has played Olympic qualifying matches there for the 1988 and 1992 Olympics, as well as the 1987 Pan American Games, with games not counting as full international caps

Last three Matches played in Indiana

May 10, 1992 – 3-1 win vs Canada – Bloomington, Indiana – Bill Armstrong Stadium – Olympic Qualifying 

August 15, 1987 – 0-2 loss vs Argentina – Indianapolis, IN – Kuntz Memorial Soccer Stadium- Pan American Games

May 25, 1987 – 4-1 win vs El Salvador – Indianapolis, IN – Kuntz Memorial Soccer Stadium – Olympic Qualifying


Lynn Family Stadium – Louisville, Kentucky
Louisville City FC – USL Championship
Capacity – 11,700 (Expandable to 15,304)

It was nearly a full capacity crowd at Lynn Family Stadium Saturday on a hot evening as LouCity took on visiting Memphis. The boys in purple won, 3-0. June 12, 2021

Louisville City FC has been one of the more successful and popular USL teams in recent seasons and has an amazing fan base. This spurred the building of their soccer stadium in 2018. It is a logical location for a USMNT match. 

Last three Matches played in Kentucky

No matches played

New York City

Future – New York City FC – Bronx, New York
New York City FC – MLS Team
Capacity – 25,000

The US Men’s National Team hasn’t played in the New York City area in nearly 40 years, even though they have played matches at the home stadium of the New York Red Bulls which is in New Jersey. 

Last three Matches played in New York City Area

November 30, 1984 – 0-0 draw vs Ecuador – Hempstead, New York – Hofstra Stadium– Friendly

September 15, 1968 – 3-3 draw vs Israel – Bronx, New York – Yankee Stadium – Friendly

May 27, 1964 – 0-10 loss vs England – Randall’s Island, New York – Downing Stadium – Friendly

New York (Upstate)

Future – Buffalo Bills stadium (2026) – Orchard Park, New York
Buffalo Bills – NFL Team
Capacity – 62,000

Buffalo Bills unveil first design images of their new $1.4 billion stadium

The US Men’s National Team has never played in Upstate New York and with the new stadium being built for the Buffalo Bills — expected to be finished sometime in 2026 — the area would have a good venue for the USMNT to play.

Last three Matches played in Update New York

No matches played

New Mexico

Proposed – New Mexico United Stadium – Albuquerque, New Mexico
New Mexico United – USL Championship
Capacity – 12,000

Another stadium option for the USMNT in New Mexico would be University Stadium also in Albuquerque, which had a seating capacity of over 30,000, however the overall attendance in the only three matches played there wasn’t impressive.

Last three Matches played in New Mexico

March 19, 2005 – 1-0 win vs Honduras – Albuquerque, New Mexico – University Stadium – Friendly

April 30, 1994 – 0-2 loss vs Chile – Albuquerque, New Mexico – University Stadium – Friendly

June 7, 1988 – 0-1 loss vs Ecuador – Albuquerque, New Mexico – University Stadium – Friendly (Clasico International Cup)


Providence Park – Portland Oregon
Portland Timbers – MLS
Capacity – 25,218

It’s been 10 years since the USMNT has played in Oregon and with the Pacific Northwest being a soccer-crazed region, is time for the USMNT to return, while the stadium is currently using field turf they would have to make the necessary accommodations to support a grass service.

Last three Matches played in Oregon

July 9, 2013 – 6-1 win vs Belize – Portland, Oregon – Jeld-Wen Field – Gold Cup-Group Stage

May 24, 1998 – 2-0 win vs Kuwait – Portland, Oregon – Civic Stadium – Friendly

September 7, 1997 – 1-0 win vs Costa Rica Portland, Oregon – Civic Stadium – World Cup Qualifier

Other venues and locations considered were Paladin Stadium at Furman University in South Carolina, Memphis 901 FC recently announced a new 10,000-seat stadium to be built in Memphis, Tennessee in the next several years, and Riccardo Silva Stadium home of the USL Championship team Miami FC. Louisiana is another state which has two venues, the Tad Gormley Stadium and the Superdome both of which the US Women’s National Team has played at in the past and could be suitable options for the USMNT in the future.

What are the next and necessary steps for the US Soccer Federation?

With so many high-profile soccer tournaments to be played in the United States over the next six years, this is a great opportunity for the USSF to expand its reach and bring the USMNT to places it’s never been. As it relates to attendance and ticket pricing, the USSF needs to figure out the formula that would allow for maximum capacity at all home matches while allowing for the federation to bring in the necessary revenue desired. Here’s hoping that the United States Soccer Federation sees it the same way and acts accordingly. 

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