Wait for U.S. national teams to return to play will likely be months more

By the end of the week, all the clubs in Europe's big four leagues will be back in action.

As restrictions loosen, MLS and NWSL clubs are gathering players in group settings and will soon be off to Florida and Utah, respectively, for the return to play with tournament competitions. The USL Championship has set July 11 as the target date for its return to play.

But it will be four more months before U.S. national team coaches gather their players again -- assuming all goes well.

On Saturday's Zoom call, the U.S. Soccer board of directors was presented updates from the federation's technical leaders and others about how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the national team program.

Coaches of various senior and youth teams have held plenty of Zoom calls of their own with their players and engaged them in activities that they can do virtually.

But no U.S. team has played since the U.S. women beat Japan, 3-1, to win the SheBelieves Cup on March 12 in Frisco, Texas. No team has been together since the U.S. U-23 men, already assembled in Guadalajara, Mexico, for Olympic qualifying, were sent home the next day.

The U.S. women's quest for a fifth Olympic gold medal was put on hold when the Tokyo Olympics were pushed back to 2021. The U-23 men will have to wait until 2021 for Concacaf's Olympic qualifying tournament. The U.S. senior men had a March trip to Europe for games against the Netherlands and Wales called off as well the Concacaf Nations League final four in June in Texas.



World Cup 2022 qualifying is supposed to start in September with the opening two games in the Hexagonal. Not only are those games off but so might be the Hex.

"Almost certainly the Hex that we know -- the six-team competition -- very unlikely won't happen," said Carlos Cordeiro, who stepped down as U.S. Soccer president in March and provided an update on Concacaf matters. "A lot will depend on how many FIFA windows we have. I think FIFA will give us more windows, but that aside, we don't really know when it will be safe to play. There are players all over the world. Trying to bring them all together into camp is difficult. A lot will depend on the safety issues along with when we can restart. But I think the Hex is off more than likely. It will be some sort of group format in what remaining time we have."

Sunil Gulati, who is on the FIFA Council, said the international match calendar is the big issue FIFA is dealing with. Three windows were scheduled for the fall -- different times in September, October and November on the men's side and women's side.

"No one knows where that's headed," he said. "International soccer faces far greater problems than domestic soccer because you've got to travel across borders, visas, health, etc., etc. So no one knows when that's going to be resolved. Some federations will be playing in September, it looks like. We won't be. Hopefully, Concacaf is able to play in October, but we don't know that yet."

Sporting director Earnie Stewart mentioned October as the month age-group teams will get back together -- and that's only those age groups in active competitive cycles.

Besides the U-23 men, the U-20 women had their World Cup scheduled to be held in Costa Rica and Panama postponed from 2020 to 2021, and the U-17 women and U-20 men had Concacaf qualifying postponed for their world championships scheduled for 2020 and 2021, respectively.

The only other age group that will gather in 2020 -- assuming conditions are safe -- is the U-17 men, who have their next world championship in 2021. All other age groups on the men's and women's sides were shut down for year after the pandemic hit and cost-cutting measures were introduced.

1 comment about "Wait for U.S. national teams to return to play will likely be months more".
  1. Wooden Ships, June 15, 2020 at 11:18 a.m.

    I'm assuming there are still quite a few National team coaching vacancies as I've not heard of any appointments. Are we ready yet to abandon the Chicago residency requirement? 

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