The United States Men’s National Team may begin their 2020 slate halfway around the world with an eye on 2022. According to a report by Doug McIntyre of Yahoo! Sports, the USMNT is planning to conduct at least part of their annual January Camp in Qatar, which will be the site of the 2022 World Cup.
The trip would be to help players and U.S. Soccer staff learn more about the logistics and possible training sites available in the Persian Gulf nation ahead of the World Cup, for which qualification begins for CONCACAF next fall. According to McIntyre, the USMNT would play a friendly against an unknown opponent while in Qatar and then return to the United States to play a second friendly.
January Camp normally is comprised of a roster almost entirely from Major League Soccer right at the start of preseason, and it’s usually conducted somewhere in Southern California. Very rarely has the USMNT played matches outside the United States during January Camp, in part because the camp operates outside the FIFA international fixture window and most teams decline offers to play as they cannot secure their players’ releases from their clubs.
However, the USMNT has had training camps or matches in several host nations ahead of World Cups. They played a couple friendly matches in Germany ahead of the 2006 World Cup, played a friendly in 2007 in South Africa and then qualified for the 2009 Confederations Cup before the 2010 World Cup, and they did conduct part of their 2014 January Camp in Brazil ahead of that summer’s World Cup. They did not travel to Russia during the 2018 World Cup cycle, a cycle that saw the USMNT fail to qualify for the World Cup after seven consecutive appearances.
It is unclear how the logistics would work for a camp in Qatar, as Major League Soccer is set to be in the middle of their preseason at that time. With the 2020 season expected to start in late February and the cloud of collective bargaining negotiations possibly leading to a strike by the players, MLS teams may be less inclined to release their players for a lot of travel. On the other hand, Scandinavian leagues and the Bundesliga will be in the middle of their winter break, and many teams conduct a winter camp in the Middle East. This could mean that more of the German-based and Scandinavian-based players could be available should the USMNT train in Qatar.
Hit the comments to discuss this possibility and whether it’s a good idea for the USMNT.