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U.S. U-21 Impact Rankings: MLS 2023 Season Preview

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The MLS season is less than a week away and if you are like me, your primary reason for watching the MLS is to monitor young American talent that could impact the United States Youth and Men’s National Teams. The MLS rosters will continue to change as the season starts, but at this point, we have a strong sense of how each team will be constructed, and consequentially, what roles young American could play for their clubs. This list is comprised of United States eligible players that are born in 2002 or later.

Likely Locked Starters

GK, Chris Brady, Chicago Fire (2004)

Chicago did not go out and acquire a starting level, veteran goalkeeper this offseason which strongly indicates that they are going to give Brady the opportunity. After selling Gaga Slonina to Chelsea for seven figures, Brady is the next super talented keeper born in 2004 that will have a chance to shine in MLS.

LB, John Tolkin, New York Red BUlls (2002)

Tolkin finished at the top of last year’s MLS U-21 impact rankings and if he stays with RBNY throughout the season he will likely finish near the top again. I am surprised Tolkin did not get a move to Europe in January, but a strong start to the season could lead to a summer move. 

RB, Tayvon Gray, New York City FC (2002)

I was expecting last season to be a breakout year for Gray, but injuries and some competition from Anton Tinnerholm got in the way of that. With Tinnerholm gone, this could be the year Gray becomes one of the better right-backs in MLS. 

SPOT Starters

RB, Bode Hidalgo, Real Salt Lake (2002)

Aaron Herrera was traded to Montreal and that leaves Hidalgo as the only right-back/right wing-back type player on the RSL roster to start the season. It’s possible that RSL brings in competition at some point this season, but for now, it looks like Hidalgo is going to get a lot of minutes for Salt Lake. 

RB, Kayden Pierre, Sporting Kansas City (2003)

Pierre was one of the most improved young American players in MLS and received spot starts for Sporting KC throughout the year. I was hoping Pierre would get a chance to be the full time starter this year, but KC brought back MLS veteran, Graham Zusi, so my bet is that they will split time at the position at the beginning of the year. Hopefully Pierre will win the job outright before the end of the season. 

RB/CB, Michael Halliday, Orlando City (2003)

Orlando’s starting right-back from last season, Ruan, moved to DC United and so that leaves three right-backs on the roster battling for minutes. Kyle Smith is the veteran while Halliday will be pushing for the starting spot along with the next player on the list, Alex Freeman. I expect Smith to begin the season as the starter, but both young right-backs should push for starts. 

RB, Alex Freeman, Orlando City (2004)

Freeman is the younger and more inexperienced player of the two young right-backs for Orlando, but he is the more talented player. I am going a little out on a limb in saying that I think Freeman will get some starts, but I think by the end of the year Freeman could solidify himself as the first choice right-back. Freeman has a Bryan Reynolds type profile at right-back. 

LB, Isaiah Foster, FC Cincinnati (2003

Cincinnati made a move for Isaiah Foster this offseason from the Colorado Switchbacks in USL. Young players moving from USL to MLS is a positive development and a pathway I’d like to see more of. I don’t expect him to start week in and week out, but he should get ample opportunity to play for FCC this year because they lack any other true left-footed full-backs. 

LB, Caleb Wiley, Atlanta United (2004)

Wiley was a spot starter at both left-back and left-wing for an injury depleted Atlanta squad last season. With Andrew Gutman fit and Derrick Etienne at left-wing, starts could be harder to come by for Wiley at the beginning of the season. Wiley’s talent is too good to not count on a significant role for the club before the end of the season. 

RCB, Jalen Neal, LA Galaxy (2003)

Predicting Neal to get spot starts for LA Galaxy is a speculative pick and I may be predicting this more with my heart than my mind, but I am hoping LAG sees the light. The Galaxy have a stable of veteran and uninspiring players at center-back and I think Neal is ready to play center-back at an MLS level, but it will come down to whether he gets the opportunity. If he does, I think he’ll take it and not look back.

RCB, Brandan Craig, Philadelphia Union (2004)

Craig is the second United States U-20 center-back that I think will get some minutes this year and coincidentally, both are the likely starting center-backs for the United States U-20 team for the U-20 World Cup in May and June of this year. Philadelphia Union has alluded to the idea that Craig will get some starts this year, likely in a three-back shape. Given the amount of games Philly will play this season, I think it’s a safe bet that we will see more of Craig.

DM, JOsh Atencio, Seattle Sounders (2002)

The Seattle Sounders typically play in a 4-2-3-1 shape and they have a lot of players that play in that second line of two. Atencio is one of those players and one of three U-21 U.S. eligible players that can play in that role. Last year it appeared that Obed Vargas was higher on the depth chart than Atencio and Danny Leyva, but with his injury challenges, Atencio could see the most minutes this season. We saw that he was the preferred choice over Danny Leyva in the Club World Cup a few weeks ago.

DM, Daniel Edelman, New York Red Bulls (2003)

Edelman earned a starting role towards the end of last season and I expect him to get a good amount of starts this season. He might become a locked starter fairly soon, but there is a good amount of competition in central midfield for RBNY and so I think Edelman will have to play really well to earn that role.

CM, Jack McGlynn, Philadelphia Union (2003)

McGlynn was one of the U-21 breakout players in MLS last season and this year he looks to build on that and become an even more impactful professional. He’ll likely split time with veteran Alejandro Bedoya. Further progression by lefty McGlynn could lead to a move to Europe this summer or next winter. 

CM, Niko Tsakiris, San Jose Earthquakes (2005)

Tsakiris is one of the most talented U.S. players born in 2005 and was the only 2005 player to make the Concacaf U-20 Championship roster for the United States. Tsakiris started to get more minutes as the season went on last year and started the last couple of games and looked good. With Luchi Gonzalez as the new manager I would expect Tsakiris to have a significant role in the midfield for San Jose.

CM, Obed Vargas, Seattle Sounders (2005)

Vargas was looking like the breakout player early in the MLS season last year after a really impressive showing in the Concacaf Champions League, but unfortunately Vargas’ season was cut short because of a significant back injury. He was back in preseason training and reportedly looking really good before picking up a muscle injury. It’s not thought to be significant and hopefully Vargas can work his way back into the starting lineup.

AM, Brian Gutierrez, Chicago Fire (2003)

Gutierrez had a very good season last year — contributing two goals and five assists. He can play left-wing, attacking-mid and right-wing in Chicago’s preferred 4-2-3-1 setup and that flexibility and emerging talent should lead to a lot of minutes and potentially some European interest this season. He may not start every game, but he’ll likely appear in every game he is available for.

AM, Diego Luna, Real Salt Lake (2003)

Luna moved to Real Salt Lake last summer from USL side El Paso. Luna is still adjusting to the increased physicality and speed of play in MLS, but should start to get more minutes and more starts in his first full season at Salt Lake.

WING, Cade Cowell, San Jose Earthquakes (2003)

Cowell very well be a locked in starter for Luchi Gonzalez this year, but with Ben Kikanovic still in the South Bay he will likely rotate a bit. Gonzalez has said that he has “big plans” for Cowell who has had rumored interest from big clubs in Europe over the last two seasons. Cowell is an elite athlete that is still developing the technical and tactical aspects of his game. If he takes considerable steps forward in those areas this year he could require a handsome transfer fee.

WING, Jackson Hopkins, DC United (2004)

Hopkins is well liked by manager Wayne Rooney and was a spot starter for a poor DC United team last year. The attack has been bolstered a bit, so Hopkins likely isn’t a locked starter, but he should get a lot of minutes in his second MLS season.

Consistently Used Substitutes

LB, Noah Allen, Inter Miami (2004)

Allen was reportedly looking improved in preseason this year, but an injury has cut his preseason short. I expect that Allen will work his way into the rotation at some point this year. 

DM, Peter Stroud, New York Red Bulls (2002)

Stroud signed a homegrown deal with RBNY this year and will be entering his first season in MLS. He was considered by most to be the best player in NCAA soccer last year and those in the scouting community believe that if he had not had to deal with serious injury issues as a youth player he’d be one of the most hyped USYNT/USMNT prospects. Stroud is good enough to earn a role in the RBNY midfield pretty early on in the season. 

DM, Danny Leyva, Seattle Sounders (2003)

Leyva was rumored to be on the move this offseason because Seattle knew minutes would be hard to come by and he seems to be behind Josh Atencio and Obed Vargas on the depth chart. Nonetheless, he should still get consistent sub minutes.

CM, Owen Wolff, Austin FC (2004)

Wolff surprisingly earned a considerable role for Austin last season, much of which he played out of position at right-wing. I expect Wolff to build on that and be a key rotational player for father Wolff this season.

CM, Ben Cremaschi, Inter Miami (2005)

Cremaschi is a new homegrown for Inter Miami and is a big talent, probably the most talented homegrown IMCF has signed to date. It will be interesting to see how Neville incorporates him into the squad — I think he’ll earn consistent minutes before too long. 

CM, Noel Buck, New England Revs (2005)

Buck was pretty good in his first season in MLS and I expect that he will continue to get spot minutes off the bench for the Revs. 

CM, Brooklyn Raines, Houston Dynamo (2005)

Raines was not eligible to play for the Dynamo last year because of the transfer rules around homegrown players moving from one Academy to another, but he should get his MLS debut early in the season and become a rotational piece in the midfield.

CM, Sergio Oregel Jr, Chicago Fire (2005)

The Fire’s midfield depth is fairly thin and Oregel has been developing nicely in MLS Next Pro. It’s possible he works his way into the rotation before too long. 

AM, Ted Ku-DiPietro, DC United (2002)

Ku-DiPietro has long been a player I rate highly and a player I thought would have a breakout season in 2022, but he never really earned or received an opportunity to get consistent minutes. He has had a nice preseason and this could be the year he puts it all together at the MLS level.

AM, Esmir Bajraktarevic, New England Revs (2005)

I think Bajraktarevic is the most talented of the New England Homegrowns even though he struggled some in MLS Next Pro last year. I am betting on his talent to come through and earn a rotation role out wide and as a number ten.

AM, Favion Loyola, Orlando City (2005)

Loyola is a new homegrown from the Orlando City Academy and he is also a U.S. Youth International. Orlando added a lot of attacking firepower this offseason, but I still think Loyola could carve out a roll for himself this year.

WING, BeRnard Kamungo, FC Dallas (2002)

Kamungo is a really cool story. He earned a North Texas SC contract after an open tryout to the public and he recently became a U.S. Citizen after moving from Tanzania. After flourishing for FCDs second team he earned a first team contract and will be entering his first full year with the first team. I think Kamungo will earn the role as the first winger off the bench behind starters Pail Arriola and Alan Velasco. 

WING, Jonathan Perez, LA Galaxy (2003)

The Galaxy sold a bunch of wingers and are actively trying to get rid of one of the last two, Douglas Costa, which would leave Perez as the only natural winger on the roster. Will Galaxy play with wingers? Who knows what Chris Klein is doing, but it would seem that Perez is going to have a role with the first team this year. 

WING, Serge Ngoma, New York Red Bulls (2005)

When Ngoma was healthy last season he looked really dynamic. The problem is that Ngoma was rarely fit. If he can stay healthy, he will be a consistent sub and potential starter for RBNY this season. 

WING, Kris Fletcher, DC United (2005)

Fletcher was signed to a homegrown deal last year after impressing for reserve club Loudoun United. Fletcher should get more of a first team role this year as either a left-winger or striker. Fletcher is a talented kid with a powerful right-foot.

CF, Quimi Ordonez, FC Cincinnati (2003)

Ordonez is provisionally cap-tied to Guatemala after an outstanding Concacaf U-20 Championship and he has been impressing in preseason. The striker depth chart is deep in Cincinnati so opportunities are going to be tough to come by, but I think Ordonez will work his way into some minutes. 

CF, Quinn Sullivan, Philadelphia Union (2004)

Sullivan is one of the most talented young Americans in the MLS, but consistent minutes for a very good Philadelphia Union squad have been tough to come by. It looks like he is moving from the midfield to second-striker this year, which I believe is a much better fit in this system. He should be the first striker called off the bench and I bet he bags some goals this year.

CF, Darren Yapi, Colorado Rapids (2004)

It is very hard for young strikers to get minutes in MLS because most clubs invest heavily in that position. Nonetheless, Diego Rubio is the only other option at center-forward for the Rapids and Yapi started to get more of a role towards the end of last season, even with Gyasi Zardes there, so Yapi could have a consistent role this year.

CF, Axel Kei, Real Salt Lake (2007)

Kei is still only 15 years of age and will be 15 throughout the 2023 season, but he showed pretty well in MLS Next Pro and he has the physical profile of a grown man. Add to the fact that RSLs striker depth is thin, so it’s not impossible to think that Kei could get some minutes in the second half of the season.

 

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2024: A Pivotal Year for the USMNT

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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.

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USMNT’S Next Great Location

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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

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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. 

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USMNT

Away From the USA

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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.

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