The final round of qualifying is set for the United States men’s national team. Jurgen Klinsmann has a couple of months before things will really kick off as the schedule isn’t even set yet for the 10 game slate. But even as early as it may seem, it is always a good time to talk venues for the five home games for the US.
The venues are just as important to the US’s success in qualifying as their play on the field. Picking the right venue is always a challenge for the USSF as they will want to give the US team as much of a home field advantage as possible. That means no picking New York or Houston for the game with Mexico. Duh.
With more and more soccer stadiums popping up across the US, the USSF has plenty of good venues to choose from but in this stage it will be about picking the absolute best venue for the opponent that they are facing. Factor in the time of the year for when the game is and you could have a perfect cocktail for five home wins.
Here are the five venues that I see being used for the Hexagonal round of qualifying.
Columbus Crew Stadium, Columbus, Ohio vs. Mexico
I know KC fans will think they deserve to have this game after their impressive hosting earlier this week. But the fact remains, if this game will be in February – it will be in Columbus. With a perfect 3-0-0 record against the Mexicans at this venue, why change that now?
Rentschler Field, Hartford, Connecticut vs. Honduras
The USSF loves making ESPN happy but honestly, the Rent has been a solid venue in the past for the US. I think throwing Honduras there would be a good move as it gets them out of their comfort zone and if this game could be played early enough in the year when there is some colder weather, it would provide a nice home field boost for the US.
PPL Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania vs. Costa Rica
The one US match that was played at PPL Park didn’t have much going for it but there is little doubt in my mind that a big qualifier would do well here. Let’s also not forget how nice that field is at PPL Park. Klinsmann will love it and Philadelphia is a natural spot for many of the European players to travel into.
Livestrong Sporting Park, Kansas City, Kansas vs. Panama
KC does have one hell of a venue which is why I think you throw a team like Panama there. You won’t see a ton of Panama fans in Kansas City which will give the US a very heavy home crowd.
Rio Tinto Stadium, Salt Lake City, Utah vs. Jamaica
Placing Jamaica was a tough one for me but I love the idea of making the Jamaicans play at altitude. Rio Tinto has been a solid venue for the US in the past and there is little doubt in my mind that the fans in Salt Lake City will fill this place up for a big World Cup qualifier.
I think Salt Lake is as far west as the USSF goes too. This one will come down to when the Jamaica game is placed on the schedule and where the US will be coming from or going to next. Plus you have to consider the travel of the European players involved as well.
Others in the mix:
LP Field, Nashville, Tennessee. – I came close to using Nashville in my list but opted for Hartford instead. The USSF will likely try to use a venue in the South and if they do, Nashville is the most likely candidate for it.
Toyota Field, Chicago, Illinois – The home of the USSF is the Windy City but playing the right game there is super challenging. If anything you could possibly play the Panama game there. But that seems like a stretch to me.
Red Bull Arena, Harrison, New Jersey – Same problem for New York as it is for Chicago. So many fans from the other countries in this group reside in these bigger cities. Its tough to get a pro-US crowd with that.
BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, Texas – Again, as much as the USSF would love to use Houston, they won’t get a big enough pro-US crowd. But saying that, expect this venue to be used for some friendlies in the near future.
RFK Stadium, Washington, DC. – This one was a tough one for me. I hate the venue but I know the USSF loves it. As much as I want to see a game in the nation’s capital, there wasn’t a single opponent that made a ton of sense to me to play there. Maybe Costa Rica, maybe Panama but neither felt as good as playing them at the other venus listed.