In a move that shouldn't surprise anyone watching the political tensions in Ukraine continue, the Ukrainian Football Federation has announced that the planned Mar. 5 match between the United States and Ukraine will be moved from Kharkiv's Metalist Stadium. The match will now be played at a yet-to-be-named location in Cyprus.
Protests against now-former president Victor Yanukovich placed the game in some doubt as early as six weeks ago, but the protests were initially contained to Kiev. Increasing tensions have spread throughout the country, and Yanukovich is now a fugitive facing mass murder charges for protesters' deaths as Ukraine seeks to stabilize itself -- hardly the ideal scenario for staging a football match.
The U.S. State Department has warned Americans against traveling to Ukraine for anything non-essential until a special election is held and a new president has been elected.
Speaking to MLS Soccer yesterday, Landon Donovan observed, "Forget about a soccer match. I come from more of a human-rights perspective, so I'm not worried about a soccer game when that stuff's going on." He added, "Hopefully, it all gets sorted out and people don't continue to lose lives. That's sad."
Assuming the change of venues works out, the USMNT will face its first FIFA-ranked top 20 team since beating Bosnia and Herzegovina 4-3 on August 14, 2013 in Sarajevo.
The 18th-ranked Ukrainians remain the highest-ranked team in the world missing out on this year's World Cup, having lost its UEFA playoff home-and-away series to France.
The U.S. had planned to have a brief training camp in Frankfurt before traveling to Kharkiv for the match. U.S. Soccer has not commented on the situation yet, but it is assumed that the training camp will still go forward and the team will just fly to Cyprus instead now.
How this affects TV or any other media coverage of the match is still unknown.