World Cup countdown moves into full gear

[THIS WEEK IN SOCCER: May 26-June 1] The countdown to the World Cup moves into full gear with two U.S. friendlies and the first of 17 friendlies on U.S. soil involving finalists other than the USA. Fan Appreciation Day for the national team will be held on Friday. And for MLS fans, there is the small matter of Seattle-Real Salt Lake on Saturday afternoon.

TUESDAY, May 27:
The USA plays the first of three friendlies in its send-off series when it hosts Azerbaijan at San Francisco's Candlestick, the former home of the baseball Giants and NFL 49ers. Azerbaijan coach Berti Vogts, who says he's a big 49ers fan, will take over scouting World Cup opponents for the USA after the match.

WEDNESDAY, May 28:
Third-round action in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup marks the entry of the eight NASL teams, including the New York Cosmos, who play their first-ever cup match against former champion Brooklyn Italians at St. John's University.
 
THURSDAY, May 29:
The third episode of the “Inside: U.S. Soccer’s March to Brazil” documentary series from ESPN Films has been expanded to an hour on ESPN (7-8 p.m. ET). The show looks back at last week's roster cuts and takes in Tuesday's USA-Azerbaijan friendly.

-- Besides the three U.S. warmups matches, 17 other matches involving World Cup finalists will take place in the United States. The first is Honduras-Turkey at Washington's RFK Stadium, where 15,000 tickets have been sold.

FRIDAY, May 30:
Fan Appreciation Day is held in New York City. Members of the U.S. national team will kick off the day with an appearance on Good Morning America in Central Park, where they will unveil a crowd-sourced Tifo display. Players and staff will be on hand at Fan Fest at Times Square beginning at 1 p.m. In the evening, a ticket-only Men in Blazers event featuring players from the 1994 and current national teams will take place at The Town Hall.

SATURDAY, May 31:
Both teams will be without MLS players, but the Seattle-Real Salt Lake showdown has the potential for being one of the biggest matches of the season. The Sounders enter the game with the best record in MLS, while RSL will be looking to break the league record for the longest unbeaten streak to start the season it shares with the 2010 LA Galaxy (12 games).

SUNDAY, June 1:
The USA faces Turkey in Game 2 of its send-off series at Red Bull Arena. The USA beat the Turks, 2-1, in the second and final game of the send-off series four years ago in Philadelphia.

-- The Cascadia Cup has served up some great matches this season -- Portland-Seattle (4-4) and Vancouver-Seattle (2-2) on Saturday. Now, the Timbers and 'Caps square off at Providence Park. Portland needs a win to stay within striking distance in the Western Conference

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