Connect with us

USMNT

Grouped OR GLORY: GROUP D

Published

on

France | Elo: 6 | FIFA: 4 |

History: For some, there is a line. A line that separates brilliance from catastrophe. It is on this line that Les Blues resides. From the semi-finals in 1982 and 1986, to failing to qualify in 1990 and 1994. From Jules Rimet holders in 1998, to winless in 2002. From finalists again in 2006, to winless again in 2010. France enter Qatar, champions once more. Will disaster ensue?

Piped by England to soccer’s conception as a sport, France retaliated by spearheading the formation of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association(FIFA), the body responsible for governing football world-wide. 

Unfortunately, despite helping codify international football as a concept, France wasn’t actually all that good at it, falling at the first hurdle, or failing to qualify altogether, for 10 of the first 12 editions of the Coupe du Monde. Then, in 1976, a host of new players, headlined by 3-time Ballon D’or winner Michel Plantini, made their debuts. 6 years on, France was in the semi-finals, losing to Germany on penalties in an all-time classic. In 1986, France returned, beating Italy – reigning champs – and Brazil – in another all-time classic – en route to a semi-final rematch against the Germans. Again, France would lose. And again, Germany would lose in the final

Les Blues would have their day in Europe, winning their first major trophy against Spain, before adding to their collection with gold in the 84 Olympics, and a triumph in a precursor to the Confederations Cup. With three major trophies sandwiched between back to back semi-final runs, France had reached a new zenith. And then they failed to qualify. Twice.

Unable to reach the World Cup themselves, FIFA gave the French a spot as hosts. Les Blues, now led by one Zinedine Zidane, capitalized, lifting Jules Rimet after a dominant victory against reigning champion Brazil  before downing the Italians to win a second European championship. And then, as the pattern goes, calamity ensued.

20 years on, France enter Qatar as champions, seeking to defy a trope their countrymen started.

Will history repeat itself? Or will Les Blues defy destiny?

Expected Finish: 2nd

Why?

While history is not destiny, it’s difficult to ignore 20 years of significant champion underperformance, when the current champion has significantly underperformed. France’s most recent underperformance involved being swept by the Danes.  France have also lost key pieces to injury

Still, the French boast a plethora of world-class players, and haven’t really done anything to warrant being rated lower than Tunisia or Australia; two teams who backed into the World Cup on thin margins and have been unimpressive continentally.

France should advance, but history, injury, and recent performance has me pegging Las Blues for 2nd. 

Why not?

Ranking top 3 per TMV and WCDCS, France still has a case as the most talented team in the world, and player for player, no one in group D comes close. 

Or maybe the French collapse all the way, finishing last like every champion has since 2002.

For what it’s worth, I think a first place finish is more likely than an exit.

Key Players

At 23, Kylian Mbappe is already being discussed as the potential GOAT. At 18, the young attacker burst into the scene at Monaco, leading his unfancied side to a Ligue 1 title and a semi-final finish in the Champions League. At 19, he was a World Cup winner. At 20, he was named the best player in France. Now 23, Mbappe has been dubbed Ligue 1’s best, three years in a row. With 29 goals in 60 appearances, including a tally in French’s triumphant final 4 years back, Kylian Mbappe is already the face of France. With a strong World Cup, he could be something more.

Aurélien Tchouameni joined the best club in the world this season. Less than half a season in, the 22 year old has already made himself indispensable. With star midfielders N’golo Kante and Paul Pogba absent, Tchouameni has become irreplaceable. A world-class defender and ball-progressor, capable of creating danger in the final third, Tchouameni could prove vital for a successful title defense.

Denmark | Elo: 9 | FIFA: 10

History: Here comes Danish Dynamite! Many people’s favorite pick for a surprise, Darkhorse Denmark enters the fray.

A “Denmark XI” first played in 1896, making Denmark one of the oldest national teams in the world. Denmark were actually quite good at the beginning, ranking 1st in Elo between 1912 and 1920 after winning two silvers from the 1908 and 1912 Olympics. The problem for the Danes was money. The Danish Football Federation(DBU), wasn’t very interested in international football, and didn’t want to foot the bill for soccer as a professional past-time. Thus many Danish players went abroad… and were promptly banished from the national team. Additionally, the DBU only sent teams for friendlies and the regional Nordic tournament until the 1948 Olympics where the Danes medalled once more. 

Eventually, with many of their best players banished abroad, the Danes started to fall behind. A disappointing quarter-final exit in the 58 Olympics prompted the DBU to stop competing there. After more disappointment in the 60’s, the DBU took action in 1971, finally allowing Danish leagues to turn professional while lifting the national team’s ban on players who voyaged abroad. In 1979 the DBU hired Sepp Piontek as Denmark’s first professional coach. Within a decade, Denmark had assembled all the components they needed for an explosion.

Denmark exploded into international prominence during Euro qualification, being dubbed Danish Dynamite after beating England to qualify for the 1984 European Championship. The Danes would combust all the way to the semis, where they lost on penalties to Spain.

 Denmark reached their first World Cup in 86 and opened with a bang, blasting the World’s first champion. In round two they face the Spaniards again and lost emphatically. Denmark would fully combust a couple years later, failing to qualify for the 1990 finals. Under Moller Nielsen, Denmark also failed to qualify for the 92 Euros, but were given a lifeline by a timely piece of warfare. War would pave a path to victory. Silver-medalists in 1912, the Danes were now the champions of Europe.

Winning Europe qualified Denmark for the 1995 Confederation Cup where they beat Argentina for a second piece of major silverware. The Danes went on to reach 5 more World Cups, memorably reaching the quarter-finals in the 98 edition. 

Thus far, the 2022 cycle has gone well, with Denmark reaching the semi-finals of the Euros while going perfect in qualifying, save for a match which meant a lot more for Scotland. All the Danes need now is a strong resolution. Can the Danish deliver a strong World Cup? Or will the Danes combust?

Expected Finish: 1st

Why?

Denmark are significantly more talented than either Australia or Tusnia, have only ever failed to advance from the group stage once, and are currently ranked top 10 in Elo and FIFA because they’ve entered Qatar in excellent form. They are clear favorites to advance. 

While France is vastly deeper and can field a significantly stronger lineup, Denmark have simply been better over the last 2 years. A lot of that was without their star player

All considered, I’m feeling good betting on some Danish delight.

Why not?

Denmark takes an unusual amount of risk when they attack. An over-eager foray from the wings may result in a speeding Kylian Mbappe breaking Danish hearts. 

Australia and Tunisia are fairly experienced at grinding out results in big games, with both teams reaching Qatar on the backs of 0-0 draws against more talented opposition. 

Denmark will want to avoid the fate of 2018 Poland, a red-hot European side that ultimately faltered when they encountered adversity. Denmark seems good, but the World Cup is hard and there are no guarantees.

Key Players

After nearly dying in the 2021 European Championship, Christian Eriksen’s return to professional soccer went incredibly well. Upon his arrival in 21-22, Brentford experienced an immediate uptick in form, going 7-3-1(W-L-T) with Eriksen on the field(they had a record of 5-15-6 without him). Denmark showed they could succeed without their superstar in 2021, but if Eriksen can do something similar for Danish Dynamite, the Danes may just pop off in all the right ways.

Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg has played every minute he’s been available for a Tottenham side competing to retain champions league qualification.  A strong ball-winner who is reliable in possession, Höjberg has been Denmark’s most reliable metronome. 

Tusnia | Elo: 43 | FIFA: 24 |

History: And now enter the Eagles of Carthage. Tunisia qualified for 6 World Cups, exiting in round one for 5 of them. Will their 6th entry end differently?

Before they gained independence, French protectorate Tunisia established an unofficial national team in 1928. Debuting against the b-team of their Colonial overlords, Tunisia lost by 6. Tunisia would need to wait until 1932 for their first unofficial victory, a 1-0 win over French Algeria. After gaining independence in 1956, Tunisia played their first official international against an independent Algeria. This time it was Algeria, in the midst of a civil war, who emerged victorious.

The 60’s brought a successful spell for the eagles who reached the final as hosts of the 1963 African Cup of Nations(AFCON). Tunisia entered the 1973 Palestine Cup of Nations and went perfect, winning six of six. Tunisia then qualified for the 1978 World Cup, eliminating old foes Algeria in the process.

Tunisia opened their debut with a win against Mexico, becoming the first African side to win at the World Cup. A close loss to the Poles proved fatal, but Tunisia exited impressively, holding reigning champion West Germany to a scoreless tie.

78 would prove to be Tunisia’s best performance at a World Cup. It would also stand as Tunisia’s only World Cup performance until 1998 when the Falcons of Carthage ushered in  a new era by going undefeated through African qualification. 

That success was foreshadowed by a run to the final of the 1994 AFCON. A remarkable achievement for a team that had failed to qualify for 6 of the prior 7 tournaments. Tunisia would reach another final in 96, before emerging as champions in 2004.

Outside of Africa, Tunisia managed to reach five of the seven world cups, finally notching their second win in 2018. After a difficult path to Qatar, the falcons have a chance to build from that base. 

Can the falcons surprise?

Expected Finish: 3rd

Why?

Ranking 26th in TMV and 30th in WCDCS, Tunisia is one of the least talented teams at this tournament. They also reached Qatar unconvincingly, barely surviving a group with Equatorial Guinea – Ranked 93rd by Elo – before edging Mali(56) in a playoff.

Tusnia have managed a total of 2 wins in 5 campaigns, and with the 4th oldest team in the tournament, the eagles may well be on their last legs.

Why not?

If recent history holds true, France will be eliminated leaving two spots up for grab between Australia, Denmark and Tunisia. Tunisia ranks higher in Elo and FIFA than Australia and are more talented per both Transfermarkt and WCDCS. Tunisia also may prove difficult to break down having only conceded 3 goals in 8 African qualifiers.

Tunisia are also battle-hardened, being made to work to reach Qatar. With age comes experience. Perhaps Tunisia can use this to grind out a couple of unlikely results.

Crazier things have happened.

Key Players

Capable on the ball and a strong defender, Ellyes Skhiri is perhaps Tunisia’s least replaceable player. Having played every minute possible for FC Koln in the Bundesliga, Ellyes Skhiri anchored the strongest defense in African qualification. Facing the likes of Mbappe in group D, Ellyes Skhiri may need to play the soccer of his life for Tunisia to survive.

Youssef Msakni missed the last World Cup due to injury. A crushing blow for 17-18 Qatar Stars player of the year and Tunisia’s most capped active player. Now approaching 100 appearances for the eagles, Msakni is both captain and maybe the best creator on the team. At what might be his last World Cup, Msakni may need to lead both on and off the field for Tunisia to make history. 

Australia | Elo: 39 | FIFA: 38 |

History: The Socceroos return… again. With a surprise win against Peru, Australia booked a trip to their  5th straight World Cup.

Representing a country based in Oceania, yet currently competing in Asia, the Socceroos were formed in 1922 for a series of friendlies against New Zealand. The Aussies lost twice, giving New Zealand, for a brief period of time, a monopoly on bragging rights.  With the arrival of cheaper air travel in the 60’s, Australia had a chance to face teams outside of their small corner of the world. This moment proved critical, setting the stage for Australia to establish themselves as one of football’s great paper tigers.

 With all but two national teams withdrawing from World Cup qualification in the Africa, Asian, and Oceanian zone, all Australia had to do to reach the 1966 World Cup was win a two-legged against North Korea. They were destroyed. They lost more respectably to Israel in 1970, before reaching the 74 edition with a hard-fought victory against South Korea. There, a side of amateurs took a point from Chile after losses to both sides of Germany. 

Over these 40 years a dichotomy emerged. Australia dominated their own backyard, reaching 7 inter-confederation playoffs. But Australia were consistently exposed against stronger opponents, losing each matchup with the exception of the aforementioned win over Korea. This came to a head in qualification for 2002 where Australia won went perfect in OFC, racked up a +71 goal differential from 8 games, recorded what is, to this day, the biggest win in the history of international football, and still missed out on the tournament proper thanks to a decisive loss outside of the continent.

Australia finally broke through in 2006, reaching Germany’s World Cup after winning a rematch with Uruguay. There, the Socceroos surprised, beating Japan and tying Croatia to become the first Oceanian team to ever progress past the group stage. A controversial loss to the eventual Champs sullied celebrations, but Oceania had found its great hope… except the Aussies had already decided to turn tail a year earlier.

In 2010 they breezed through Asian qualifying going undefeated and putting up a continent best 22 points in the final round. At the tournament proper, they nearly replicated the magic of 06 only to be denied by a controversial penalty after a second red card. The first sending off, given to 06 hero Tim Cahil, ultimately doomed them to elimination via tiebreaker. While a victory against Serbia would prove insufficient, it would mark the last time the Socceroos won at a World Cup.

Indeed, despite the promise that better competition would make Australia stronger, Australia has not been able to translate regional success – headlined by an Asian Cup win in 2015 – outside of their continent. Perhaps there were bigger bones to pick than the quality of national  teams players face in a small fraction of their professional matches?

Now entering a 5th straight World Cup, Australia have gone from one of the stories of 2006, and perhaps more deserving than the actual story of 2010, to a presumed minnow in 2022.

Can the Aussies flip the script with a November surprise? Or will Australia leave another tournament as quickly as expected?

Expected Finish: 4th

Why?

Australia are the lowest ranked team in this group, and arguably the least talented. They backed into the World Cup with a penalty win against Peru, after backing into the inter-continental playoff with a narrow win against the United Arab Emirates, after backing into the AFC qualification playoff with back to back losses to Japan and Saudi Arabia.

Australia only managed to win one of their last 8 matches in the final round of Asian qualifying, are winless in their last 6 group stage games, and now enter a group with two teams that already advanced past them 4 years prior.

You can never guarantee that a team will fail, but Australia is about as close as you can get.

Why not?

Australia did manage to tie Denmark last time, and if the World Cup curse holds true, that opens up a spot. Australia also may have an advantage with institutional experience over Tusnia or Denmark playing at their 5th straight World Cup.

Anything is possible.

Key Players

When picking potential stars for a team looking to overperform expectations, it’s often a decent idea to take a look at who’s tasked with stopping the shots. Matthew Ryan may be Australia’s best player. With various stints at the big clubs across Europe, Champions League experience, a team-high 76 caps, and experience from several major international tournaments, the 2-time Belgian league keeper of the year, will probably need to be massive for the Socceroos to make some noise.

Aaron Mooy has had a bit of a resurgence at Celtic, getting regular minutes as the Scottish Giants have managed to capture some of their vintage glory. Aaron played a key part in Huddersfield’s Premier League promotion in 16/17, and has played a key part for the Aussies throughout the years, winning Australian Player of the Year three times on the trot. With 53 caps, Win or lose, Mooy will go down as one of Australia’s greatest players. He’ll need to play like that for Australia to survive.

Predicted Group Standings

1Denmark
2France
3Tunisia
4Australia

For more info on the methodology click here.

Group Previews:

A

B

C

D

E

F

G

H

Continue Reading

USMNT

2024: A Pivotal Year for the USMNT

Published

on

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 Goal.com 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.

1992

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

1993

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

1995

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

1999

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

2003

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

2007

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 

2009

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

2016

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.

Continue Reading

USMNT

USMNT’S Next Great Location

Published

on

Where the USMNT Should Play Next and Why?

26 JUN 1994: COBI JONES#13 OF USA FIGHTS OFF THE CHALLENGE FROM FLORIN RADUCIOIU OF ROMANIA DURING THEIR 1994 WORLD CUP GROUP A MATCH AT THE ROSE BOWL STADIUM IN PASADENA, CALIFORNIA. ROMANIA WON THE MATCH 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Shaun Botterill/ALLSPORT

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.

Texas10
Florida7
Ohio7
California6
Kansas*5
Missouri4
Tennessee4

*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.

Alabama

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

C:\Users\desch\OneDrive\Desktop\USMNT_Venues\Alabama-Protective_Stadium.jpg

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

Arkansas

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


Hawaii

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

C:\Users\desch\OneDrive\Desktop\USMNT_Venues\Hawaii.jpg

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

Idaho

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


Indiana

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

C:\Users\desch\OneDrive\Desktop\Eleven-Park.png

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

Kentucky

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

https://soccerstadiumdigest.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/NewMexico-conceptual2020.jpg

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)

Oregon

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. 

Continue Reading

USMNT

Away From the USA

Published

on

Away From the U.S.A.

The US Men’s National Team just wrapped up their 2023 campaign with yet another Gregg Berhalter road loss to Trinidad and Tobago in a critical match, but this time the USMNT was able to qualify for the 2024 Copa America.

For decades the philosophy for the US Men’s National Team when playing in FIFA competitive Concacaf road matches was to play for the draw, which doesn’t really provide the necessary mindset or winning culture for a nation that has more money & resources that most of the 41 teams of Concacaf.

I am not suggesting that it’s easy to play road matches in Concacaf, there aren’t a lot of challenges that the team encounters from the field conditions, fans surrounding team buses on their way to the stadium and the passionate fans yelling and cheering against their team’s opponent.  

It’s rare for the USMNT to play road Concacaf Friendly matches. Here’s a breakdown of those matches played since the 1990 cycle.

2022 Cycle – 2 Wins, GF-10, GA-3
2 Neutral Match Friendlies played at Wiener Neustadt, Austria

2018 Cycle – 2 Wins, GF-5, GA-1
2 Road matches against Cuba & Puerto Rico

2014 Cycle – 2 Wins & 1 Draw GF-2, GA-0
3 Road matches against Canada, Mexico & Panama

2010 Cycle
No Matches played

2006 Cycle – 1 Win, GF-2, GA-1
1 Road matches against Jamaica

2002 Cycle – 1 Draw GF-2, GA-2
1 Road matches against Jamaica

1998 Cycle – 1 Win, 1 Loss, GF-3, GA-1
2 Road matches against Jamaica & Trinidad & Tobago

1994 Cycle – 1 Win, 2 Draws & 3 Losses, GF-5, GA-9
6 Road matches against Jamaica & Trinidad & Tobago

1990 Cycle – 2 Wins, 1 Loss, GF-2, GA-1
3 Road matches two against Guatemala & the other against Bermuda

USMNT Managers Concacaf Road Results

Below is a look at the road result for World Cup qualifying for the USMNT by cycle, with the 2022 and 2018 cycles being two of the worst performance from the USMNT, with the 2006 and 2010 cycles being the only ones where the USMNT had the winning road record, however, both of those years Concacaf qualify only provide byes for top teams for the 1st round of qualifies and saw the USMNT playing the 2nd Round and beat Grenada at home 3-0 and 3-2 on the road during the  2006 cycle and also beat Barbados at home 8-0 and won 1-0 on the road in the 2010 cycle.

2022 – WCQ Road Results – Managed by Gregg Berhalter
1 Win, 3 Draws & 3 Losses, 6 pts, GF-5, GA-7

2018 – WCQ Road Results – Managed by Jurgen Klinsmann (1-1-2) & Bruce Arena (0-3-1)
1 Win, 4 Draws & 3 Losses, 5 pts, GF-10, GA-11

2014 – WCQ Road Results – Managed by Jurgen Klinsmann
3 Wins, 2 Draws & 3 Losses, 11 pts, GF-11, GA-12

2010 – WCQ Road Results – Managed by Bob Bradley
5 Wins, 1 Draw & 3 Losses, 16 pts, GF-12, GA-11

2006 – WCQ Road Results – Managed by Bruce Arena
4 Wins, 3 Draws & 2 Losses, 15pts, GF-13, GA-10

2002 – WCQ Road Results – Managed by Bruce Arena
2 Wins, 3 Draws & 3 Losses, 9 pts, GF-8, GA-7

1998 – WCQ Road Results – Managed by Steve Sampson
2 Wins, 4 Draws & 2 Losses, 10 Pts, GF-10, GA-8

1990 – WCQ Road Results – Managed by Bob Gansler (2-1-1) & Lothar Osiander (0-1-0)
2 Wins, 2 Draws & 1 Loss, 8 Pts, GF-2, GA-1

A look at the past USMNT managers road World Cup qualifying results from the 1990 cycle to 2022 cycle.

Gregg Berhalter

Away
1 Win, 4 Draws & 5 Losses, GF-7, GA-12

-USMNT score zero goals in their 4 losses & 2 goals in their 3 draws

Neutral
1 Win, 0 Draws & 0 Losses, GF-4, GA-0

Jurgen Klinsmann

Away
4 Wins, 3 Draws & 5 Losses, GF-17, GA-18

Klinsmann had 1 win, 1 draw and 2 losses in road matches during the 2018 cycle before being fired.

Bob Bradley

Away
5 Wins, 1 Draws & 3 Losses, GF-12, GA-11

Bruce Arena

Away
6 Wins, 9 Draws & 7 Losses, GF-25, GA-23

Arena’s road record after replace Jurgen Klinsmann during the 2018 cycle was 0 wins, 3 draws and 1 loss.

Steve Sampson

Away
2 Wins, 3 Draws & 2 Losses, GF-8, GA-6

Bob Gansler

Away
1 Win, 2 Draws & 1 Loss, GF-1, GA-1

Neutral
1 Win, 0 Draws & 0 Losses, GF-1, GA-0

USA vs. Concacaf and their struggles.

Here’s a breakdown of the road World Cup Qualifying results for most common USMNT opponents from 1990 through 2022 cycles. The USMNT has a road record against the below Concacaf teams of 13 Wins, 21 Draws, and 19 Losses with a GF-51, GA-62, and having never won a World Cup qualifier at Costa Rica or Mexico.


In an effort to prepare themselves for the smog and high altitude of Azteca, the USMNT has taken many measures to prepare one of which has been the use of hyperbaric chambers leading up to the matches. While other road Concacaf venues have different challenges this is the only known extra preparation the USMNT has taken to try and give themselves an advance and I have wondered why we don’t see more of an effort to do things like this for other road Concacaf opponents.

Costa Rica
0 Wins, 0 Draws & 10 Losses, GF-6, GA-25

El Salvador
2 Wins, 2 Draws & 0 Losses, GF-6, GA-3

Guatemala
1 Win, 5 Draws & 1 Loss, GF-5, GA-6

Honduras
3 Wins, 1 Draw & 1 Loss, GF-11, GA-7

Jamaica
1 Win, 5 Draws & 1 Loss, GF-5, GA-5

Mexico
0 Wins, 4 Draws & 3 Losses, GF-3, GA-6

Panama
2 Wins, 2 Draws & 1 Loss, GF-8, GA-5

Trinidad & Tobago
4 Wins, 2 Draws & 2 Loses, GF-7, GA-5

What this means

Everything the USMNT has experienced over the last 30-plus years suggests that the mindset, preparation, and mentality for road matches especially in Concacaf needs to greatly improve if US Men’s Soccer is ever going to become a consistent elite nation on the International stage.

Continue Reading

Trending