Ah, it’s that time of year again. January Camp. That special month-long camp when the USMNT gets to run out and watch all the fringe players that play in MLS and see which can make the jump to being a full part of the United States Men’s National Team. Normally, the team gathers to train at Dignity Health Sports Park, home of the LA Galaxy, in Carson, California. But this year, the team is jumping on a plane and flying all 14 hours to Doha, Qatar, before coming back to Carson for a match with Costa Rica on February 1st. Why? Well, allow me to explain.
Hit the Road
The USMNT has been bad away from home for a long while now. After the MNT lost to Canada in the CONCACAF Nation’s League, I pointed out just how long a stretch that’s been.
The United States has won exactly two competitive games away from home going back to the start of the 2014 World Cup. We beat Ghana 2-1 in that World Cup in Brazil and St. Vincent & the Grenadines away in September 2016 during the 4th round of World Cup qualifying (where the U.S. entered). That’s it over the past 5 years. That includes matches against Panama, Honduras, Guatemala, and Trinidad and Tobago (TWICE!!). And now, we get to add Canada to that list. The USMNT has been bad on the road for a very long time now.
Following that match, the USMNT beat Cuba away from home (though the game wasn’t even played in Cuba), so that record is now up to three. (Note, Cuba is awful.) The USMNT clearly has a problem dealing with games outside of the country, so perhaps training abroad will help foster a better culture and attitude when traveling for matches.
World Cup Prep and Logistics
A big part of this training stint is getting the logistics right. And, given what USSF said in this press release, that seems to be exactly what they are thinking.
With the confidence and anticipation of qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the USMNT will take a first opportunity to experience the football facilities, customs, weather, and other logistical and performance considerations in the host nation. Utilizing similar opportunities prior to the World Cups in South Africa and Brazil proved extremely beneficial in the team’s planning and preparations.
Let’s set aside the fact that the team is assuming that they will qualify for this World Cup after missing the last. When playing in the World Cup, teams have to have training facilities and accommodations planned beforehand. And, since the entire tournament is being played in one city, the capital Doha, there will be a lot of competition from other national team programs for the best facilities and hotels. Scouting ahead means that the team can get the best accommodations as possible.
Those are the big reasons. There are a few other things that make it a decent training spot — the weather is pegged to a comfortable range of 60 - 80°F, for example —but those are the big things.
What do you think? Do you think the team would be better off sticking closer to home for January Camp? Let me know in the comments down below.