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Bruce Arena: MLS venues are way to go for WCQ
by Paul Kennedy, May 14th, 2017 8:43PM
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TAGS:  men's national team, mls, orlando city, world cup 2018


U.S. national team coach Bruce Arena was in Orlando to scout players in the Orlando City-Sporting Kansas City game on Saturday and promote the USA-Panama World Cup qualifier game on Oct. 6 that will be played at Orlando City Stadium, which he considers an example of an MLS venue he says is needed to give the USA a home advantage.

“When we entered 2017," Arena said, "it was critical that we were able to select venues that would help the U.S. team. We knew our last home game was going to be critical and perhaps the deciding factor in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. There could not be a better venue, a better city to select than Orlando. We know when we come here in October, there are gonna be 25,000 people here supporting the U.S. team and giving us every chance to be victorious on the day and headed to Russia in '18."

For the first time, all five Hexagonal home matches are expected to be played in MLS soccer-specific stadiums:

2016-17 U.S. Hexagonal Venues:
Nov. 11 in Columbus (10th WCQ): USA 1 Mexico 2
March 24 in San Jose (1st WCQ): USA 6 Honduras 0
June 8 in Commerce City (3rd WCQ): USA vs. Trin. & Tobago
*Sept. 1 in Harrison (1st WCQ): USA vs. Costa Rica
Oct. 6 in Orlando (1st WCQ): USA vs. Panama
*to be confirmed.

In 2013, the USA played all five home games in MLS stadiums, but one of them was Seattle's CenturyLink Field that the Sounders share with the NFL Seahawks.

"The options are play in MLS stadiums or NFL-style stadiums," Arena said. "A lot of our opponents in Concacaf qualifying have huge support in the United States, so we want to be in venues that I think are much more supportive of the U.S. team. The bigger the venue becomes, the less favorable it is for the U.S. team although the stadiums would likely be filled.  When we’re in the smaller stadiums the likelihood of it being largely a dominant crowd in favor of the U.S. team occurs. And we saw than in San Jose in March. And I think that's the right way to go. The example of that has traditionally been Columbus as a venue for USA-Mexico, which worked out so well until recently."

In 2009, only two of the five venues were MLS soccer-specific stadiums. In 2001 and 2005, the only MLS soccer-specific stadium that was used was the stadium in Columbus.

In 2001 and 2009, the USA played Honduras in large stadiums -- Washington's RFK Stadium and Chicago's Soldier Field -- before largely pro-Catracho crowds. The 3-2 loss to Honduras in 2001 was the last home loss in World Cup qualifying before the 2-1 loss to Mexico in Columbus, Ohio, in November 2016.

  1. Kevin Leahy
    commented on: May 15, 2017 at 7:12 p.m.
    Don't see Florida as an ideal venue for playing Panama. Somewhere like Portland or a northern tier place. I think Panama will be too comfortable in Florida.
  1. Charles Calvert
    commented on: May 16, 2017 at 9:36 a.m.
  1. Andrew Busa
    commented on: May 16, 2017 at 10:09 a.m.
    Kevin, it is worth noting that they chose Florida with an eye for the very next game in Trinidad. They likely wanted a short flight for the quick turn around game.

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