USMNT Daily Update: A closer look at the delay in picking home venues for the HEX

By IVES GALARCEP

Admit it. If you are a U.S. Men’s National Team fan who likes traveling for big national team matches you have probably spent an irrational amount of time scouring flight prices and checking Twitter and your email repeatedly for any sort of word on just where the five home World Cup qualifiers for the USMNT will be this year.

We are now 11 weeks away from the first home qualifier for the United States, a March 22nd showdown vs. Costa Rica, and we still haven’t heard a word on just where the only home USA qualifier before June will be. We have heard plenty of rumors, ranging from Kansas City to more recently talk of Colorado and Utah battling it out to be the high-altitude home of a qualifier that comes just four days before the USMNT travels to Mexico City to the altitude and pollution of Estadio Azteca.

If it feels a bit like the USMNT is cutting it close, there is certainly an argument for that.

It almost seems crazy when you compare the United States to the other five participants in the Hex. All but Costa Rica have chosen the stadiums were every qualifier will be played, and Costa Rica’s options are both in San Jose, either Estadio Saprissa or the modern but far less intimidating national stadium.

In other words, fans of all five other teams in the Hex already know where each home match will be played, even into October. Meanwhile, the USMNT can’t even figure out the first of their five home venues.

So what exactly is the hold up?

The first thing U.S. fans should realize is that the other Hex teams either have established national stadiums, like Jamaica and Panama, or clear-cut preferences like Azteca for Mexico. Honduras and Costa Rica are both really only choosing between two options, with Honduras holding one match in the capital of Tegucigalpa, while playing the other four qualifiers in San Pedro Sula.

The USMNT, as we all know, doesn’t have an established home. Instead, we have a Wal-Mart aisle worth of options to choose from. There are stadiums from coast to coast capable of hosting matches, which means Jurgen Klinsmann and the rest of the USMNT decision makers can pretty much tailor their selections to fit exactly the needs they have for those five important matches.

So why is this first one still taking so long? Good question. The easiest answer comes when looking at the calendar, and the match looming soon after that March 22nd date. The trip to Azteca to face Mexico on March 26th is vitally important for any number of reasons, and right now the USMNT is trying to figure out which March 22nd home venue works best as a launching point heading into the Mexico match.

Mexico City plays at altitude, but it is unclear just how prepared for that altitude the national team can get in the week or so lead-up to that match. If Klinsmann decides a week at altitude in Colorado can help the Americans when they go to Azteca, then Colorado just might make sense (and based on what I’m hearing, Utah is sounding less and less like a leading candidate for the March home qualifier).

Waiting so long to pick a venue hasn’t been too popular with U.S. fans, especially ones who are forced to hold off on making travel plans, but the decision is too big to rush and the USMNT is probably willing to lose out on some traveling fans if it means getting that decision right.

And the rest of the year? The sense I get is that we will hear about the two June home venues relatively soon, at least soon in the sense that it is very likely to come more like 3-4 months before the actual match, as opposed to less than three weeks beforehand.

With Columbus looking more and more likely to host the Mexico qualifier in September, that leaves only the October 11th qualifier against Jamaica as a home match U.S. Soccer won’t likely rush to book a venue for. Just where that match is played will depend largely on how the United States is doing in qualifying at that point. If the Americans are cruising, the U.S. could choose to play it in a large market in order to have a big payday at the box office.

And if the U.S. is struggling and in dire need of a result? You can bet Klinsmann will take his time and consider bringing the team back to a venue like Livestrong Sporting Park, the same place the Americans booked their place in the Hex.

Unfortunately for U.S. fans, all of this means that you are just going to have to keep waiting, and have to keep checking flight prices and Twitter and your email for the news. Waiting isn’t ideal for U.S. fans eager to make travel plans, but if picking the right venue helps the team win in March, it is safe to say U.S. fans aren’t going to care about how long they had to wait to make those plans.

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82 Responses to USMNT Daily Update: A closer look at the delay in picking home venues for the HEX

  1. Jon says:

    Waiting impatiently!

  2. Stephen says:

    Winning is more important than traveling fans. Said the fan who is not traveling.

  3. Al DiFranco says:

    Really hoping Columbus gets that September 10 match vs Mexico!!!

  4. Bobb says:

    And the MLS complete schedule isn’t out yet either. Could the two be related?

  5. Big Chil says:

    What’s cool is that back in qualifying for Germany 2006, we only had 3 SSS, and now we have 12.

    • Bobb says:

      Umm, actually there are 11 soccer specific stadiums at the MLS level (I assume you’re not counting Rochester or San Antonio or something), not 12…

      19 MLS teams, minus 8 = 11:

      New England
      DC
      Chivas USA
      San Jose (not completed until 2014)
      Seattle
      Vancouver
      Toronto
      Montreal

      • malkin says:

        Toronto’s BMO Field doesn’t count? It doesn’t count as a USMNT option, but you specifically mentioned MLS.

    • CplDaniel says:

      That is cool. Have you told FIFA about that? They don’t think MLS has made any progress.

  6. Jeff says:

    I’d bet that KC gets Costa Rica. With two of the first three on the road (including Azteca) can’t take any chances on not getting three points in the first home game. KC always delivers.

    • Brett Bates says:

      Livestrong is no doubt the best site in USA, but I agree with Ives’ assumption that it will be at Colorado. Give KC the Honduras game, which could prove to be the most important game deciding who advances.

      • Excellency says:

        Is there not the possibility of really bad weather in Denver on March 22?

        We should beat Costa Rica at home. It might backfire to put wild card variables into the equation just to train for a game 5 days later in Mexico City which we do not expect to win anyway. Let’s concentrate on winning the home games and getting off on the right foot instead of falling behind the curve.

  7. Ross says:

    I live in Colorado and would love a U.S. match here. However, the idea of a game here in March I think is nuts. There would be vey good odds of the temperature being in the 20′s if not colder. Throw in snow and very gusty winds, I just don’t think it’s a good idea. I believe March is historically our snowiest month. Not trying to rain on the parade just a critical look at things.

    • couchtoast says:

      Ummm, I think the chance for cold weather is part of the point of holding it in CO.

    • Dave says:

      The average temperature in denver on Mar 27th is 54 with a low of 33. Average kickoff would be in the low 40′s.

      At a guess, our players are better prepared to play in the cold, so that is not necessarily a disadvantage either

      • bottlcaps says:

        Especially in that a large part of the US team will be coming from Europe where temperatures will generally be even colder. Add to that the problems the Central American will have with the cold (a majority of the Costa Ricans will still come from warm CR) and to the fact that you need at least 72 hrs at altitude to acclimatize properly, and Colorado seems like the perfect jump off for Mexico. The real problem is if you chose Colorado, is getting enough time at altitude BEFORE the CR game, seeing there is a limit to how early the Euro teams can let there players go.

    • Eric W says:

      Not trying to ‘snow’ on our parade, eh?

    • Bobb says:

      We are playing a bunch of Latin American teams, not Canada. The cold weather is an advantage.

    • Ross says:

      My point is that the conditions could get the game canceled. Does everyone else remember the Rd Bulls United playoff game in NY?
      Coloroado averages 6 days of snow and almost 11 inches of it in March.
      There is a huge difference between playing a game in the 40′s and playing a game in the 20′s with blowing snow.
      It literally can be in the 60′s here and sunny and I’m wearing shorts and then that night it starts snowing and we get a foot of snow then the high for the next week is 20 degrees.
      I’m all for freezing out the Central American team. I just don’t want to freeze out our team or have the game called.

      • Shane says:

        Qualifiers v Mexico have been played in Columbus in FEBRUARY the last two or three go-rounds. Chances of temps in the 20′s are higher then than Colorado in late March. It will work out because God, the Force or whatever you prefer will be on our side.

  8. Mike V says:

    I’m not a little more comfortbale waiting because it’s better to be right than to be wrong. Qualification is going to be a beast and if we are not 100% prepared we won’t make it to Brazil. I hadn’t thought about the factors when choosing a stadium,. It’s not as black and white as I thought. As a Denver resident, I really, really want that Costa Rica game here. Trust me, being here for a week and training can really be an asset for MX City. Hell, they could even train in CO Springs, at the Olympic Training Center, where the elevation tops about 7,200 ft. Filling DSP shouldn’t be an issue, either. The USWNT sold out DSP in mere days on their Gold Medal Tour.

  9. Dennis says:

    It takes more than a week to acclimate to altitude, In fact for short durations, like a few days to a week, performance is likely to be worse at the end of that short time than at the beginning. That argues against Colorado or Utah. Of course, that is physiological adaptation, that does not address the psychological adaptation or the technical/tactical adaptation (the ball carries further, travels faster, curves differently) which can improve over a few days.

    If it were me, I would pick a cold place and one that has a dearth of CostaRicans, Columbus and K.C. comes to mind. I would avoid anywhere that might be warm or have too many C.R. supporters. Of course, Colorado can be cold in March and adapting to the altered flight of the ball might help.

    • k.e. says:

      Unless you know a lot about the specific Latin American demographics of Kansas City, you’re wrong on that count, and and haven’t seen the crowds that turn out for matches in KC between other Central American countries.

    • Mike V says:

      From experience, I’m not top level athlete, but it took me very little time adjusting to the altitude when I moved to Denver. I pretty much went right into my rountine of running 5 miles daily and wasted little time playing soccer. My performance may have been hindered but itI honestly couldn’t tell. For an elite level athlete adjusting to altitude shouldn’t be a problem. What Denver and Salt Lake do not prepare you for is the wicked smog of MX City. That’s the real isssue for me.

      • ben says:

        Actually, I live in SLC and the air pollution is horrific, especially over the winter. There’s been years I haven’t directly seen the sky or sun for almost a month.

    • 2tone says:

      Actually acclimating for an elite athlete takes no time at all. IF you are an elite athlete thinner air really doesn’t register like it would for someone that is 20 pounds over weight and barely exercises. It’s a myth that altitude plays any kind of major factor to any kind of athlete unless they have sickle-cell disease.

      • Spectra says:

        Its not only the altitude. What about pollution? Pollution can be awful in Salt lake in March. and Mexico City has some of the worst.

        UTAH!!! biased I can’t afford a flight right now

      • Beto says:

        The effects on elite athletes is acknolodged but i imagine different for everyone.

        The biggest effect that should be known is for fans who plan on flying in a drinking! They will feel the altitude after a few brews for sure

        • Flacotex says:

          Just remember the rule, one glass of water for every pint of beer. It’s the combo of dry air and high altitude.

      • dikranovich says:

        of course the altitude affects everyone who does not train in it regularly. that is why bolivia beats argentina 7-1 at home and lose on the road.

  10. THomas says:

    Why can’t the USA just pick a national team venue, or build one, and stick to it? I know all of the arguments, but couldn’t those be used for other vast countries such as Mexico, England, France, etc?

    It could be in a major city that is easy/cheap to get to and you could sell ‘season tickets’ for qualifying cycles to help ensure USA fans will be the majority.

    This is probably something that would only be viable a generation or two from now when soccer is one of, if not the nation’s top sport.

    • Stephen says:

      The simple answer to this is that it is completely unnecessary and would likely provide little to no home field advantage. If you put a stadium like that anywhere on the East Coast or in California or anywhere in the south you’d have no chance of it being a pro US crowd. Put it anywhere else and it’s not easy and cheap to get to. I like our current set up and think it provides lots of fans a chance to see our national team that otherwise might not get a chance to travel to one single local. On top of all that, why do we need to be like other countries? We should be our own and have our own traditions.

      • Paul Miller says:

        Good comment, Stephen. We need to quit worrying about that stuff, and do what’s best for us. And do it more proudly. Not ugly-American-proud, but we should stop sheepishly asking the football world if our soccer peculiarities are okay.

        This ties into Uncle Nutty’s recent blathering. Sorry if he doesn’t like our pro league’s schedule, but that’s what the league feels it has to do to work around other, more culturally significant sports leagues, the likes of which the rest of the world has no experience with. We of course reserve the right to change our summer schedule if and when such a change fits our interests.

        We may never be the center of the football universe, but we’re becoming a more predominant country in this game, and we should start acting the part.

        • Luis says:

          I think becoming “predominant” is a far stretch…more like becoming a more relevant “participant.”

    • 2tone says:

      Have you ever been to England? It’s not a vast country at all.

      • THomas says:

        No but taking a four hour train ride from Newcastle to London is not much different than taking a four hour flight from New York to LA. So in a sense the travel times are similar.

        • couchtoast says:

          Have you gone through TSA at the airport recently? A four hour flight and dealing with airport security is a much bigger headache and time suck than dealing with a train, not to mention the cost difference.

        • Patrick says:

          Could not be more wrong. A train to n ewcastle requires you show up 3 minutes before the train leaves, you hop on, hop off in Newcastle and you’re done. Trains are also more comfortable, and this is key: you’re not changing timezones

    • Bobb says:

      “other vast countries such as Mexico, England, France, etc”

      Nominee: best joke of the month.

  11. TomG says:

    I’m not a Klinsmann hater, but one thing I dislike about him is that every, single decision involving him seems to get dragged out to the last, possible moment. He always announces his rosters, even for friendlies, far after the opposing team announces theirs. I wonder if he’s a bit of a procrastinator?

    • michael m says:

      I don’t think he’s a procrastinator per se I think he’s just German and is very precise and methodical in his approach. He may overthink to some degree but he takes his time studying and takes maybe a cautious approach before making decisions. It is frustrating, though.

      • Paul Miller says:

        Funny, the different stereotypes of Germans we have. One is the methodical engineer, who needs to see everything available twice before making a decision. Another is the ruthless competitor, who will seek out every advantage.

        The latter is the thought I had. Remember the other teams also don’t know where they will be playing. Not a huge advantage to us, but if it bothers them even a little… When it comes to soccer, I see Germany as a country of John Maddens.

      • Shane says:

        He’s neither. He does not do the job with the care or sense of responsibility that our previous two coaches have because he doesnt need to – he is soccer jesus. All of his call-ups have had issues, all of them. He complained about the pitch in Jamaica being bumpy in the middle and the US only put one cross into the box the entire match. These are basic things that any professional coach knows and feels responsibility for getting right on the most basic level. Klinsmann does not because he hasnt had to work his way up as a coach. If he had any respect for what the USMNT has before them he would be demanding to know where they will be playing their only WCQ on home soil out of the first four qualifiers.

    • Kevin_Amold says:

      I find this very irritating too.

    • 2tone says:

      He doesn’t need to cater to the fan. Deal with it.

    • alf says:

      That’ one of the many reasons I like him. He’s always trying to gain an edge.

    • John O'Brien says:

      No, Klinsmann is not a procratinator…he’s German. Klinsmann takes in as much information as he can before making a decision.

    • Beto says:

      I dont recall this not being an issue under bob… I believe its a USSF issue. Correct me if i am wrong

  12. away goals says:

    I still don’t see any need for the costa rica decision to be taking this long. It’s not like we’re waiting on results of some ongoing altitude training experiments.

    Yes, the mexico game a few days later is a big deal, but it’s not some unknown variable. USSF has all the relevant information, so make the call already.

    • DJ says:

      “The month of March is characterized by rising daily high temperatures, with daily highs ranging from 49°F to 57°F over the course of the month, exceeding 72°F or dropping below 34°F only one day in ten.” According to Weather Spark. You probably moved here last April…that would explain it.

    • Paul Miller says:

      We should concentrate on winning the earlier game – whatever venue offers best advantage for that. Because the simple fact is a few days later we’ll be at 8,000 feet, in smog, playing Mexico’s A team, which will have a strong incentive to pay us back for the friendly win over their B team.

      This is Mexico’s best team ever. They might be limited to dark horse status in Brazil, but they are now, for the first time in Mexico’s history, in that conversation. Personally I think their defense is probably not up to the task, but the timing is perfect, with Brazil in disarray, Spain aging, Italy in disarray, Germany arguably not quite as strong as their strongest (which has never won outside Europe), the French young and improving, but still young, the Dutch in disarray, current crop of Argentinians yet to play up to potential for the national team… This is a year when someone from another confederation could more conceivably run the gauntlet.

      Sorry, got carried away there, making the point that we probably aren’t getting a point in Mexico City, so worst of all worlds would be to screw the game before it, too.

      • Joe Hamilton says:

        Are you for real? Mexico has no more talent than the US national team. Other nations that won the U17 WC have done little in the World Cup such as Ghana. The Olympics is similar having little correlation between winning the Gold Medal and doing well at the World Cup.The US has twice as many players in the top 5 European leagues as Mexico. More often than not , the leading players on the Mexican U17 ,and U20 have not played well in Europe . Gio is perfect example.He is ranked 2056 among players in the top 5 leagues. The US has 12 players in the top 1200 versus 6 Mexicans. This doesn’t include Altidore and Kjestan who would will be playing for a team in the one of the top 5 leagues if they choose to leave their current teams. The amount of and the rankings of players from a particular nation in the Castrol rankings is very closely correlated with success at the World Cup. The countries with the most players in the top 200 players have all won at least one world cup. Mexico finished lower than the US at the last World Cup and I predict they will finish lower the US again.

  13. beto says:

    SBI, your first sentence is on point! I admit it! I really think that USSF would be doing its self a huge favor and just make there picks ahead of time. I would announce the entire 5 game schedule sometime around Christmas-New Years, give people plenty of time to make travel arrangements and to rally the massess. If they can’t do that there should be some level of fan interaction in this process. I contacted the Rapids FO and Denver AO not to long ago seeing if there was anything the fans could do, only get a nothing answer. The opaque organization of USSF keeps this whole process very secretive until a few weeks before the event.. not the best way to put on a national event!

    I am really hoping for Colorado for the first game! Since the rumor has been making its way around Denver I sense a lot of excitement here. It would be a great pro-US crowd with altitude and potentially cold snowy weather. then again colorado could very well be 65 and sunny in the end of march, its very unpredictable here. As for logistics there are a lot of direct flights from around the US, UK & Europe as well as Mexico into Denver, making getting the team and fans here (and off the Mexico City) easy.

  14. MA1 Rodriguez says:

    I am more worry about lack friendlies during JAN-MAR.

  15. Will says:

    Perhaps a stupid question, but why is it that the USMNT doesn’t have a national stadium? There’s probably the issue of it not being used more than 10 times a year, but why not do something similar to what Mexico does? Perhaps USSF could partner with DC United, for example, and build a stadium in the nation’s capital? The biggest drawback to me seems the idea of not playing our biggest games in KC or Columbus.
    Just as a disclaimer, I have no idea whether or not USSF has the money to contribute to that partnership.

    • Derrick says:

      The US rarely loses at home because it doesn’t have a national stadium. There are too many immigrants in DC to have it there and still be a pro american crowd.

    • Paul Miller says:

      Seeing as most of our home games would be against CONCACAF opponents, putting a national stadium in D.C. guarantees a mixed at-best home crowd. I live in nearby Virginia, and am still holding out hope D.C. gets one of the qualifiers. It did four years ago. We had Costa Rica here (the day after Charlie Davies’ accident). The crowd was probably 60-40 for the U.S. Not a place to put a national stadium, as much as it would convenience me.

      But why should we do that at all? Why give up the option to locate games where it best spreads the wealth for fans and gives our team any tactical advantage? Just because that’s the way Mexico does it?

    • Joe says:

      Simple answer is there is no best spot to build a national stadium. The US also already has some of the highest capacity stadiums in the world (ironically colleges have the largest and don’t get much consideration except in some cases) with the NFL. Also the vast size of the country makes it less likely due to less availability for a wider audience to attend.

      The two largest cities in the country are on opposite coasts so which would it be closer to? Or would it be closer to Chicago? LA gets more pro Mexico crowds when we host Mexico and other cities have demographics that may get a more pro other nations. Would Boston were to host US vs Ireland who would have more fans?

      On second thought the answer may not be so simple…

  16. Crazy Jon says:

    We want the Yanks a Mile High
    We want the Yanks a Mile High
    Oh we want the Yanks here in Denver
    We want the Yanks a Mile High!!

    US Soccer Bring the March 22nd WCQ to Denver. AO Denver is Ready! I really really really want this game haha

    • EvertonBrian says:

      I kind of like the idea of hosting the first game at a higher elevation, like Denver, hoping for a smooth(ish) transition to Mexico City a few days later. Having never experienced altitude like this, can anyone speak to any potential disadvantages of doing this, if any?

      7,940 feet (2,420 m)
      Mexico City, Elevation

      5,280 feet
      Denver, CO

      4,226 feet (1,288 m)
      Salt Lake City International Airport, Elevation

    • dawn kiebals says:

      Typical Rapids fan……slightly better than Rapids wonderland, worst “hardcore” fans in the league

      • Crazy Jon says:

        Dawn, please sit down shut up and if you insist upon using your mouth you can gargle my jabulani’s

        • josh says:

          Good point though, its like a high school girls basketball game, “lets go rapids, clap clap, clap clap clap” they even stopped trotting out the cheerleaders a couple of years ago because they gave up on you guys

        • MLS_Soccer_Talker says:

          Settle down Bruh… ain’t nobody wanna hear that…

      • EvertonBrian says:

        Appreciate the response, Dawn. Horrible grammar and nonsensical, to boot.

        Cheers!

      • timothy says:

        We aren’t the worst fans, we just have some of the worst Front Offices that have successfully run away most of the fans. As far as “clap clap clap go rapids,” there is one supporters group that does that, but the two bigger ones sing songs

    • Paul Miller says:

      I’m thinking of a lower altitude on the East Coast.

      Look, that game is going to have players flying in from European clubs, from three to four timezones east of the East Coast, and Costa Rican players flying in from roughly the same timezone.

      There isn’t going to be a lot of time for prep, because European clubs have their own needs. Our team is already going to be more travel fatigued at best case. Making these guys fly another couple timezones and putting them at altitude could even make the disadvantage greater.

      Costa Rica isn’t bad. They have a decent attack – guys who can threaten our porous center defense. We shouldn’t take 3 points here for granted, just because it’s at home.

      I think we should do what we can to minimize the travel disadvantages, win that game, regardless of losing an opportunity to better prepare for Mexico and smog at 8000 feet.

      • Paul Miller says:

        And if you want a venue that limits Costa Rican fans, how about Heinz Field in Pittsburgh? After the season the Steelers had, the season the Penguins aren’t having, the coming season the Pirates are likely to have, Pittsburghers will come out in force, if for no other reason just to vent their frustration.

  17. patrick says:

    dang it why screw me ussoccer? Why are all the games on non weekends? I have school!

  18. Kevin_H says:

    I live near the stadium the USMNT played in DC against Brazil. Any chance that stadium could be included for WCQ?

    I had to miss the Brazil game due to jury duty…

  19. ACS says:

    March game in Fairbanks?

  20. Am hoping for something west of the Mississippi, I might be able to make the trip. Years ago I went to a conference in Denver, and everyone was warned about how the altitude might affect you, but I didn’t see much difference (of course older now, so who knows). I’d be more worried about cold weather, as a SoCal person, don’t have much in the way of cold weather gear. I’d really like Seattle or Portland, I could go up and back the same day w/o changing time zones.

    • Blacksmith says:

      Hoping the Honduras game is in the NW. The Sounders might have 3 Hondurans and EJ all get to cut their collective travel to a bare minimum for the match

  21. Johnny says:

    Hope they play in Jacksonville. Last May 44,438 supporters came out to watch the US destroy Scotland.

  22. malkin says:

    Wal-Mart aisle? Really???