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Examining a decade of USMNT opponents

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Who has the team played the most? We look at it all

SOCCER: JUL 08 CONCACAF Gold Cup Group B - United States v Panama Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The United States Men’s National Team have finished out the 2010s, with 170 matches completed across all competitions and friendlies. From the very first match of the decade in Carson, California to the last match in George Town, Cayman Islands, the USMNT has experienced some ultimate highs and the lowest of lows. The team went 88-48-34 (W-L-D) in the 2010s, and they did it against 60 unique opponents.

So, who were those opponents? They came from every confederation, and the USMNT played them in friendlies, the World Cup, the Gold Cup, Copa América Centenario, World Cup qualifying, CONCACAF Nations League, and even a Confederations Cup playoff. We have broken down all the matches to see which opponents the USMNT faced the most:

All USMNT Opponents

Panama win the prize of the team the USMNT has faced the most. 14 times in the 2010s, there was a USMNT-Panama matchup. That’s the benefit of many World Cup qualifiers as well as matchups in the Gold Cup. There were also a few friendlies as well, most recently in January 2019. Mexico comes in second with 13 matches played, and that should come as no surprise to USMNT fans. Mexico was a familiar opponent in all competitions.

CONCACAF opponents understandably dominate the list, with Costa Rica, Jamaica, Honduras, Canada, and Guatemala coming in behind Panama and Mexico. The team outside of CONCACAF that the USMNT has faced the most is Colombia, with 5 matches between the two teams. Despite the teams last facing each other in the 2014 World Cup, Belgium is the European team that the USMNT has faced the most.

Since a lot of matches that the USMNT play are a part of official competitions, like the World Cup, Gold Cup, Nations League, Copa América, or World Cup qualifying, it’s hard to use the argument that we face too many CONCACAF teams or we don’t play European teams enough. So, we separated the friendlies and counted how many times we scheduled friendly matches against various opponents. The USMNT faced 49 opponents in friendlies, and here is how that list shakes out:

USMNT Friendly Opponents

Mexico is the team that the USMNT has looked to the most to play in friendlies in the 2010s, with 6 matches between the two rivals. Brazil played 4 friendlies against the USMNT, while Ecuador did the same. The confederations that dominate the list are CONCACAF, CONMEBOL, and UEFA. The USMNT played friendlies against every single team in South America at least once, while they routinely played some of the stronger teams in North American and Europe. The regions that are lacking on this list are Oceania (just one match against New Zealand), CAF (3 total matches against Nigeria, Ghana, and South Africa), and the AFC (2 total matches against South Korea and Australia). One would hope that in the 2020s, the USMNT will expand their reach to have more matches against these regions.

The final aspect we examined was the friendlies played beyond the borders of the United States. The USMNT had 28 friendlies abroad against 24 opponents, and it’s something that USMNT fans wished would happen more often. Let’s take a closer look at the teams that the USMNT decided to play outside the USA:

USMNT friendlies played abroad in the 2010s

France, Ireland, Italy, and the Netherlands are the only teams that the USMNT played abroad more than once. The furthest the USMNT traveled to play a match was a friendly against South Africa in Cape Town in 2010, after they played Australia in a pre-2010 World Cup friendly in South Africa. They only traveled to South America once, a 2012 friendly against Chile (they played Colombia at Craven Cottage in London).

The vast majority of the USMNT’s international friendlies have been in Europe, where they played 21 matches against 17 opponents. With a huge number of USMNT players based at European clubs, it made sense for the USMNT to schedule some matches there so that those guys didn’t have to travel as much. Still, with only 1 match in South America, 2 in Africa (both in 2010), and none in Oceania or Asia, there are still plenty of opportunities for the team to test themselves in the 2020s against good competition in unfamiliar settings.

The 2010s saw some matches against some quality opponents and some that the USMNT had never faced. With the 2020s including the 2026 World Cup, of which the United States is a co-host with Canada and Mexico, there will be many chances to travel and schedule some new opponents. We will see who will emerge on the slate for the USMNT in 2020 and beyond.