We finally have a World Cup qualifying schedule. Now that the United States Men’s National Team knows who they will play in The Ocho and what months they will take on the best in Concacaf, now the debate can begin over where the USMNT will host its 7 home matches over the course of the Final Stage of qualifying.
There are a number of stadiums in the United States that would be fine candidates to host a World Cup qualifier, big and small. We’re going to examine what a possible set of home venues could be in The Ocho. We did a similar exercise back when we thought there would be a Hexagonal round (wither the Hex), but now that there are 7 home matches, let’s examine where those matches could take place.
These matches are going to likely be held in soccer specific stadiums that have natural grass fields. So, that rules out turf venues in places like Seattle, Portland, and Atlanta. There won’t be the option of laying down grass over a turf field due to safety concerns from the players (see: Cincinnati, 2019), so those venues will just have to figure out another way to get a U.S. match. Taking that into account, here’s a roadmap that could be the USMNT’s path to Qatar.
June 2021 (B/E winner) - Audi Field, DC (Capacity: 20,000)
Audi Field can get incredibly loud, arguably the loudest stadium in the country. The fans are right on top of you, and can create a fortress that will help establish a much-needed home field advantage. To open up World Cup qualifying against a team like Canada or Haiti, a match in our nation’s capital could put our opponent at a disadvantage and give the USMNT the edge they need to begin The Ocho with a home win. DC is easy for everyone to travel, the stadium is electric when full, and on a June night, it will be incredibly hot for a team like Canada, but our team will be able to handle it.
After a trip to face Honduras in San Pedro Sula, the USMNT would return home to face Jamaica before 26,000 fans at the new FC Cincinnati stadium that is slated to debut in March 2021. The USMNT has played Jamaica in Ohio before in a World Cup qualifier, beating them 1-0 in Columbus on September 11, 2012. This time, they move down I-71 about 110 miles to a stadium that could become a new fortress in the Midwest. The atmosphere that would be expected for that match will be one that the team will need against a good Reggae Boyz team that will want to spoil the party. Cincinnati won’t let them ruin any fun on that day.
September 2021 (Costa Rica) - Children’s Mercy Park, Kansas City (Capacity: 18,467)
The Ticos will be the second biggest home match in The Ocho, so for that match we go to the best soccer stadium in the country. Kansas City has hosted plenty of World Cup qualifiers and big matches before, and this will be no exception. The USMNT has only allowed 2 goals in 6 matches at Children’s Mercy Park, and spurring the defense on could be the X-factor in a match that could help separate the logjam in the Ocho standings. It’s a no brainer to have Kansas City on the schedule.
October 2021 (Mexico) - Allianz Field, St. Paul (Capacity: 19,400)
This is where fans of USA-Mexico matches in Columbus abandon ship. The magic of Mapfre Stadium, which lasted us for 15 years, ended on November 11, 2016 when Mexico finally won there. Now, it’s time for the USMNT to start a new tradition with a new soccer stronghold. We have that in Minneapolis-Saint Paul with Allianz Field. The field is pristine, the noise is intimidating, and Mexico will not like playing there. That’s good...because the USMNT will definitely enjoy it. This is our biggest match on the home menu, and as this match will take place in October, we could see some cold weather that will do everything to rattle the bones of the Mexican team. This one will be fun. Apologies to Columbus, but the biggest international match in Concacaf should be played at Allianz Field.
November 2021 (A/F winner) - Rio Tinto Stadium, Salt Lake City (Capacity: 20,213)
A match against possibly El Salvador or Trinidad and Tobago (or even a surprise like Montserrat or Guyana) would be great if placed in Salt Lake City at the RioT. There will be a bit of altitude, but not enough that our players will be super gassed. The other team will request new lungs by the end of the match, though. This will be a great place to get 3 points against a team in El Salvador or Trinidad and Tobago that has given us fits in the past. And, with a possible trip to face Canada on the road awaiting following this match, it’s still easy for the team to get to either Toronto or Vancouver with little difficulty.
January 2022 (Honduras) - Earthquakes Stadium, San Jose (Capacity: 18,000)
Earthquakes Stadium (formerly Avaya Stadium) hosted a big World Cup qualifier back in March 2017 against Honduras, and it turned out quite alright. A 6-0 demolition of Los Catrachos was a fun match from start to finish for the USMNT. This match will be important because it could be a match where the team has a chance to clinch qualification before heading down to Mexico City to take on Mexico at Estadio Azteca. It’s also in January, which renders much of the country out of commission due to the weather or the temperature. The stadium may be cold, but it will definitely be rocking, especially if the USMNT has a chance to book their place in the World Cup.
March 2022 (C/D winner) - New Nashville SC Stadium, Nashville (Capacity: ~30,000)
Finally, we have reached the end of The Ocho, and this would be the final home match on the schedule. With this match taking place against a team like Curaçao, Panama, or possibly Guatemala or Cuba, what better place to end than in the Music City. Nashville SC’s new stadium is scheduled to open in 2022, and hopefully it will be ready to host a party. It will be a nice place to celebrate what should be a trip to the 2022 World Cup, but if we have some work to do, it will still provide a terrific atmosphere in what is set to be the biggest soccer specific stadium in America. Nashville has been a great venue for the USMNT in the past, and putting a bunch of fans right on top of the field to hound the opponent into submission will be just what we need before flying to Costa Rica to finish out qualifying.
Now, it’s time for you to weigh in. Where do you think the USMNT should play their home matches in The Ocho when it begins in June? Hit the comments and tell us where each match should go and why those venues are the ones you think are the best.