The United States will be returning to Columbus, Ohio and MAPFRE Stadium on March 29 for their vital World Cup qualifier against Guatemala. U.S. Soccer announced that they had selected the venue as the site for the match, bringing the Americans back to a stadium where they have been spectacularly successful.
The U.S. currently sits on four points in Group C of the semifinal round of World Cup qualifying. That has them atop the table, level on points with Trinidad and Tobago, but they have already played the unquestioned weakest team in the group, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which Trinidad and Tobago have not. Odds are, the Soca Warriors will win their two March matches against the Vincy Heat and be on 10 points. That means the U.S. need to ensure they put some distance between them and Guatemala when they play Los Chapines twice in March.
World Cup qualifying resumes on March 25 when the U.S. plays at Guatemala. Then four days later they will play in Columbus, again against Guatemala. Two wins will nearly guarantee the U.S. advances to the final round of qualifying. Four points puts them in the driver's seat, while three or less puts qualification very much in doubt. That makes the second match, at home against Los Chapines, a near must-win and a huge match at MAPFRE Stadium.
MAPFRE Stadium, formerly Crew Stadium, has been a U.S. stronghold ever since it opened in 1999. It is most famous for hosting the Americans' World Cup qualifier against Mexico every four years, which the U.S. has won 2-0 on each occasion, but it has also hosted many other matches. In 10 matches at the venue, the U.S. has won seven, drawing the other three.
Four years ago, the U.S. hosted the very same match as the one they will play against Guatemala. It was the fourth match of the semifinal round of qualifying and the Americans had just lost in Jamaica. They desperately needed a win over the Reggae Boyz and were back in Columbus. A raucous, sellout crowd of 23,881 packed MAPFRE Stadium and the U.S. topped Jamaica, 1-0, thanks to a goal by Herculez Gomez to get back on track for World Cup qualification. They did just that, winning their next two matches to make the final round of qualifying, and eventually the World Cup.