We’re a month into 2019, and the United States Men’s National Team is already 2-0 with victories over Panama and Costa Rica. One of the main things that fans look for in a calendar year is not just where the USMNT will be playing, but against whom. Of course, we know about the matches against Ecuador in Orlando and against Chile in Houston in March. But, with the Gold Cup this summer and CONCACAF Nations League, there won’t be many opportunities for the USMNT to test themselves against teams from outside the region.
Still, there will likely be a couple opportunities in June pre-Gold Cup along with two opportunities this fall to have friendlies against some opponents from elsewhere in the world, and it would be nice for U.S. Soccer to think outside the box and try to schedule those matches against some intriguing opponents. Some may be opponents we haven’t played in a while, while others would be opponents that would be great tests for a young team looking to build as they move towards the start of World Cup qualifying next year.
So, which 10 teams are the ones that would pose the most intriguing matchups for the United States? Let’s break it down from 10 to 1:
10. Morocco (#43 in FIFA world rankings): The losers of the 2026 World Cup to the Unified bid, Morocco is vastly improved as a soccer team as well. We could see how the USMNT would match up against their style of play. They showed something in the 2018 World Cup, and they could be on the scene for a while to come. It may make sense to shake things up a bit by playing a team like Morocco.
9. Nigeria (#46): We last played Nigeria in a send-off match before the 2014 World Cup. One of the better teams in Africa is one that we could easily see in a group stage in Qatar. We don’t play African teams enough, and those have been some of the teams that give us the most trouble.
8. South Korea (#38) - Let’s take it back to 2002 with this one. They have a bonafide star in Son Heung-min and it’s a team full of some youngsters as well. It would be a formidable opponent, as South Korea is #38 in the world, and it would be a different style of play than the team is generally used to seeing.
7. Canada (#79): We have played Mexico eleventy billion times in the past few years, it seems, but we haven’t played Canada since we played a friendly at BMO field in 2012 (check Wikipedia). They’re trying to get back to being one of the top 6 teams in CONCACAF with some young players like Alphonso Davies, and this rivalry needs to pick up some steam.
6. Egypt (#57): Mohamed Salah against our defense? Sounds like a long day for our defense, but we won’t know until we play, right? That would be a fun matchup, and Salah would be a draw to casual fans. The USMNT have only faced Egypt twice, the last coming in the 2009 Confederations Cup (yep, that match). There’s the added subtle link of Egypt once employing former USMNT and current Los Angeles Football Club coach Bob Bradley as their head coach. Let’s schedule something like this.
5. Northern Ireland (#36): Let’s paraphrase the words of Detective Trupo from American Gangster: “When’s the last time we played Northern Ireland? Let me think...never.” To be fair, it was actually 1948 the last time we faced off against the Northern Irish, and at #36 in the FIFA rankings, it would be an interesting matchup. U.S. Soccer could do well by giving their fans a matchup that no one has seen before. Northern Ireland will begin Euro 2020 qualifying in March, but they have an open date in October. Of course, it will have to match up with an open date for the USMNT during CONCACAF Nations League play, but if there’s a mutual open date, schedule it.
4. Japan (#27) - Would you believe that we’ve only played against Japan twice? Japan is one of the giants of Asia, and we haven’t faced them since 2006. Japan is one of those teams that is pretty decent and would present a formidable opponent to the USMNT. As we get the youngsters involved, you want to show them some teams that you could come across in the next World Cup.
3. Wales (#19): May 26, 2003. That’s the first and last time that we’ve played Wales. This would easily be one of the most intriguing matchups. With Euro 2020 qualifying, Wales have an open date in September. If the USMNT don’t have a CONCACAF Nations League match date during that period, a ton of fans would relish the chance to see Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey line up opposite the United States.
2. Senegal (#24): Simply put, this would be a fun game. Senegal’s style of play is fascinating to watch, and they’re incredibly strong with Sadie Mane leading the charge. Who wouldn’t want to see us play such a fun team? They were one of the darlings of the 2018 World Cup, and fans would love to see the USMNT test themselves against a team like that.
And the most intriguing matchup?
1. Uruguay (#7) - When’s the last time we played Uruguay? May 12, 2002. That’s a long time, especially when in the last two years or so, we’ve basically lined up against the rest of South America. Uruguay has been consistently one of the top 10 teams in the world the last decade, but somehow we have avoided lining up against them. The USMNT would have a great challenge from the #7 team in the world, and it would be one that most fans in the stands haven’t seen.
So U.S. Soccer, just take a look at this list and start making some calls. Let’s get some of these teams scheduled. And for those of you out there, hit the comments and let us know which matchups you would find intriguing for the USMNT in 2019.