Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
By September, the United States men’s national soccer team will likely be in need of the comforts of home. Lucky for local soccer fans, Columbus Crew Stadium is the closest thing to a home ground for the U.S. team, and its return to central Ohio appears imminent.
The final round of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil for the CONCACAF region, comprised of countries in North and Central America and the Caribbean, is under way, and the U.S. national team got it started with a 2-1 loss at Honduras, leaving it in last in the six-country group. It’s still early – the Stars and Stripes have nine games remaining in World Cup qualifying contests – but the team can scarcely afford to drop points, especially when it has the home-field advantage.
Enter Crew Stadium, the ground on which the U.S. men boast a 6-0-3 record, as well as a 3-0 record against rival Mexico. And it just so happens that the Mexicans are scheduled to visit the U.S. on Sept. 10, a day on which no other events are currently scheduled at Crew Stadium.
There are groundswells of support for the coveted U.S.-Mexico game to be held at American soccer-specific stadiums that are newer and flashier than the home of Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew, such as Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., and Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas. Based on the criteria U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati laid out during a Jan. 30 press conference, Columbus’ 14-year-old soccer stadium could be the leading candidate to host the Americans and “El Tri.”
“I think you will see us play in this round in five MLS venues and four soccer-specific stadiums,” Gulati said during the press conference. “I think that is how it is shaping up. And none of the soccer-specific venues will be in New Jersey or in Los Angeles and so on … We will play, generally, in venues where the U.S. team has been successful in World Cup qualifying before.”
U.S. Soccer did not immediately respond to The Lantern’s request for comment Monday regarding the timetable for announcing the venue for the Sept. 10 match.
The U.S. men last visited Crew Stadium on Sept. 11, when it tallied a 1-0 win against Jamaica in the previous round of the current World Cup qualifying campaign.
Tim Howard, goalkeeper for the U.S. and English Premier League club Everton, said he was hopeful that the U.S. would return to Crew Stadium.
“Columbus – you can’t say any more about it,” Howard said. “We were talking inside – there’s no bigger home field advantage for us in America. You know, for whatever reason, they didn’t sit down, there were a thousand flags waving. It was really awesome, so hopefully we have a lot more games here.”
The next World Cup qualifying match for the Americans is scheduled for March 22 against Costa Rica. The match is scheduled to be played at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Denver, Colo., home of the Colorado Rapids of the MLS.