USA top open 2012 against Venezuela

[DATEBOOK] The U.S. men's national team will open play in 2012 against Venezuela on Jan. 21 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. Four days later, the USA will be in Panama City, Panama, for its first ever friendly against the Canaleros. The matches will follow a January training camp and serve as important warmups before the start of World Cup 2014 qualifying in June.

The only official FIFA date for international competitions before the start of qualifying is Feb. 29, 2012.

"It's very important that we start the year off in the right way with a good training camp and two challenging games," said U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann. "We are going to continue to increase the demands on the players and have them develop a better understanding of how we want to play."

The camp will be important for MLS players looking to play their way into the team. Only one MLS player -- Real Salt Lake's Kyle Beckerman -- started in the last U.S. game, a 3-2 win over Slovenia.

Venezuela is off to a fantastic start in its bid to qualify for the World Cup for the first time. It is tied on points with Argentina and Uruguay at the top of the Conmebol standings with a 2-1-1 record that includes a 1-0 victory against Argentina.

The USA is unbeaten in three meetings (two wins and a tie) against Venezuela.

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