The United States Men’s National Team is ready to leave the 2010s in the dust and enter 2020 looking to start preparations for the CONCACAF Nations League playoffs as well as 2022 World Cup qualifying. We took a look back at the USMNT in the 2010s and the opponents they faced and which ones they scheduled the most. With Nations League playoffs, World Cup qualifying, and even the 2021 Gold Cup, there won’t be many opportunities between now and the Gold Cup to schedule friendlies against opponents outside of CONCACAF.
Still, there will be plenty of chances for the USMNT to test themselves against opponents from other parts of the world. Here is the expected schedule for the USMNT between now and the 2022 World Cup:
January 2020 - January Camp (2)
March 2020 - friendlies (2)
June 2020 - Nations League playoffs
Aug/Sep 2020 - WCQ
Oct 2020 - WCQ
Nov 2020 - WCQ
January 2021 - January Camp (2)
March 2021 - WCQ
June 2021 - friendlies (2)
July 2021 - Gold Cup
Aug/Sep 2021 - WCQ
Oct 2021 - CONCACAF WCQ playoff/friendlies (2)
Nov 2021 - friendlies (2)
January 2022 - January Camp (2)
March 2022 - inter-confederation WCQ playoffs/friendlies (2)
June 2022 - friendlies (4)
Aug/Sep 2022 - friendlies (2)
Nov 2022 - 2022 World Cup
Between now and November 2022, the USMNT could have the potential to schedule as many as 22 friendlies. With this option, there is a chance for U.S. Soccer to schedule some matchups that fans and the team haven’t seen in a long time or play opponents for the first time. The USMNT have played 100 current or former national teams in its history, but there are 223 national teams in the world that are affiliated with a confederation. That means that 129 teams have never lined up against the USMNT. There are also 46 teams that the USMNT have faced 3 or fewer times.
Here is a list of the top 10 teams in the FIFA World Rankings (rank in parentheses) that the USMNT have never faced along with the teams the USMNT have only faced 3 times or fewer in its history (the teams in italics are teams the USMNT did not face in the 2010s):
- 0 Times: Senegal (20), Northern Ireland (36), Qatar (55), Congo DR (56), Mali (56), Bulgaria (59), Burkina Faso (59), Montenegro (64), Albania (66), United Arab Emirates (71)
- 1 Time: Croatia (6), Wales (22), Tunisia (27), Serbia (29), Slovakia (32), Algeria (35), Cameroon (53), Greece (54), Finland (58), Ivory Coast (61), North Macedonia (68), Curaçao (80), Luxembourg (98), Armenia (102), Thailand (113), Azerbaijan (114), North Korea (116), Latvia (137), Kuwait (147), Nicaragua (150), Guyana (166), Belize (170), Puerto Rico (178), Liechtenstein (180), Malta (184), Cayman Islands (193), Guadeloupe (NR)
- 2 Times: Japan (28), Nigeria (31), Iran (33), Bosnia and Herzegovina (49), Egypt (51), Slovenia (64), Estonia (103), Antigua and Barbuda (126), Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (167), Moldova (175), Martinique (NR)
- 3 Times: Austria (26), Australia (42), Morocco (43), Czech Republic (45), Hungary (52), South Africa (72), New Zealand (122), Grenada (159)
From that list, the only confederation that doesn’t have a team is CONMEBOL, as the USMNT has played each team from the South American confederation regularly throughout the years. However, using this list, which teams could be good for the USMNT to play, both as a way to test themselves against unfamiliar opponents or travel to hostile surroundings? We sort them into pairs so you could mimic an international window and also throw in a couple of teams that would make for a road trip that we didn’t get to see in the 2010s:
- Northern Ireland/Wales: The USMNT would be smart to schedule these two teams during a window. With Northern Ireland in the Euro 2020 playoffs in March, they couldn’t do it then. But, both would be excellent tests for the Yanks and great road trips for the team’s European-based players.
- Senegal/Ivory Coast: The last time the USMNT played a friendly on African soil was against South Africa in 2010 after the World Cup. Returning to Africa to play Senegal and the Ivory Coast, two of Africa’s traditional powers, would be an incredible experience. You could also schedule these two teams at home and generate some excitement at seeing some incredible talents line up against the USMNT.
- Japan/Thailand (or South Korea): A road trip to Asia is something that would not only introduce the USMNT to unfamiliar settings, but also get the players used to the travel that will be associated with getting to the 2022 World Cup. A lot of fans would travel for friendlies against these teams as well. South Korea is thrown in here because a Japan/South Korea tilt would provide the best atmosphere on the continent and would be against two quality teams.
- Egypt/Morocco: The USMNT tried to set up a match with Egypt back in 2011, but it was canceled due to the Arab Spring uprisings in Cairo. They could try this again, with a trip to Casablanca to face Morocco and get two quality opponents on the same African road trip.
- Greece/Hungary: Greece and Hungary could make for two insane, hostile environments. Both are top 60 teams, and it would be easy trips for a window. The USMNT haven’t faced either since the 1990s, and with both being formidable opponents, it would make sense to see how the Yanks match up with them.
- Paraguay/Uruguay: Neither Paraguay nor Uruguay are unfamiliar opponents to the USMNT, but what is something they rarely do is play South American teams on the road. Heading to Asunción to face Paraguay and then to Montevideo to take on Uruguay would take the USMNT on a difficult road trip while still allowing for the match to be broadcast during primetime in the United States.
- Australia/New Zealand: How cool a trip would this be to take? Australia and New Zealand on the same trip? Sure, it’s a very long trip, but it would be a rewarding one, and it would be one of interest to many diehard fans.
- Finland/Estonia: Finland and Estonia are two teams that the USMNT haven’t faced in 20 years, and while Estonia isn’t that great, the two would make terrific January Camp opponents.
- Nigeria/Cameroon: The USMNT will need to get familiar with competition that is hard-nosed and physical on the ball. Nigeria and Cameroon will be able to provide a valuable lesson in that area. It would be great to schedule them on the road, but these two teams have enough name recognition at home that they would be interesting match to casual fans.
- Croatia/North Macedonia: Croatia is one of the top teams in the world and somehow the USMNT have avoided them the past two decades. They have some of the best players in the world, and the opportunity to go against the 2018 World Cup finalists would be terrific. North Macedonia is a team that fans may need a map to find, but they’re also a decent team that can surprise the USMNT.
Which teams do you think the USMNT should schedule for friendlies in the next couple years? Hit the comments and debate this list or provide one of your own.