As the US Men’s National Team trains in Carson, CA this month, fans are waiting patiently to hear where their home qualification matches will be played. During the previous cycle for the 2014 World Cup, the USMNT executed a perfect 5-0 hex record at home. It is painful to recall this team has already lost at home to their biggest rival, Mexico in Columbus, OH. Amongst the matches they will play away from home, the task for this group is four straight wins on home soil.
Since December 14, we have been treated to a widely reported rumor that the all-important home hex match against Honduras is slated to be played at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, CA on March 24 (still yet to be officially announced by U.S. Soccer).
Home to the San Jose Earthquakes, this venue would make sense as the national team hasn’t played at the stadium yet (built in 2015) and it would ensure they are playing in front of a pro-USA crowd of 18,000 fans. While this was exciting news for supporters at the time, almost a month later we still have no confirmation and travel expenses aren’t getting any cheaper.
While the federation’s lack of transparency continues to drive supporters crazy, we are all excitedly waiting to hear who will host these next four hex matches. The home hex matches are viewed as the most important matches played on home soil over each four-year cycle. So besides the match in March against Honduras, where else could they play?
USMNT Hex Venue Predictions
The fact that our 2017 Gold Cup schedule has been released is big news when it comes to figuring out the remaining hex venues. In July, the USMNT will play their group stage matches in Nashville, Tampa Bay and Cleveland. That’ll check the boxes for the east coast this year. Here are a few more thoughts on the strategy used by the incognito group at U.S. Soccer who makes the hex scheduling decisions:
- No east coast matches — Due to diverse populations, for must-win hex matches the farthest east we are willing to go is Columbus.
- Soccer specific stadiums only (unless it’s Seattle) — The only city in America where an NFL stadium makes sense is Seattle, where they do it every week in MLS.
- Guarantee a win — The crowd must be 100% pro-USA, no messing around in the hex.
- Logistics — With matches crammed together, difficult flight paths and other challenging logistics it is important to strategize.
Here’s my best guess at where these matches could be played.
June 8, 2017 v Trinidad & Tobago – Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Denver
Followed by: June 11, 2017 at Mexico
I strongly believe that U.S. Soccer will take full advantage of training a full week at high altitude prior to the ultra-tough journey to Mexico City. Besides the city’s smog and passionate crowd (or the terrible record of our team at Estadio Azteca), this match will be played at the highest altitude venue in the hex (7,349 feet).
The team could focus on preparation by setting up training in Colorado Springs and playing their third hex match at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Denver. This will allow a full week at the highest possible altitude training site that is suitable for the squad and the flight from Denver to Mexico City is a breeze. While Denver did host during the previous hex cycle, this is the opportunity for U.S. Soccer to check off the mountain time zone and leave the east coast for the Send-off Series before Russia.
September 1, 2017 v Costa Rica – CenturyLink Field, Seattle
Followed by: September 5, 2017 at Honduras
Besides Columbus and Kansas City, the obvious choice to guarantee a win is CenturyLink Field.
For those who had the chance to attend the 2013 hex match in Seattle v Panama, you’ll know what I’m talking about. And for those supporters who weren’t there, I bet you remember watching on TV with goosebumps. To this day, many well-traveled supporters would tell you this was the best USMNT match they ever attended. Seattle is the only place where U.S. Soccer could think about scheduling a hex venue at an NFL stadium and still get a pro-USA crowd.
For a federation who has all of a sudden began asking their supporters for donations, this certainly is a simple decision to make excess cash while not sacrificing the environment. Seattle is the only city where this would work and after 2013, they deserve another go.
October 6, 2017 v Panama – Children’s Mercy Park, Kansas City
Followed by: October 10, 2017 at Trinidad & Tobago
With only two matches remaining at this point, it could very well be do or die time for this team. With the full contingency of players arriving a week early, it won’t be necessary to have the group meet on the east side of the country for this match against Panama. Given this match will be 9 of 10, we will need a win and the only other place I know that should guarantee a victory more than Columbus is Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City.
Arguments could be made that this match against Panama should be held in Seattle again, but I think with it during the NFL season it is too hard to predict what that’ll look like. The ultra-pro-USA crowd in Kansas City never disappoints, the venue is a top choice for the federation and is looked at by many supporters to be the unofficial home of U.S. Soccer. Whether or not it’s this game, rest assured, Children’s Mercy Park should be a hex venue.
Do you agree with these predictions? Where do you think we should play these important matches?