ST. PAUL — The U.S. men’s national soccer team is coming to the frozen tundra.
Allianz Field in St. Paul will host a World Cup qualifier between the U.S. and Honduras on Feb. 2, sources told the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Wednesday.
Minnesota United has sought a World Cup qualifier in this 2021-22 cycle and has been rewarded with a game in crunch time of the round-robin tournament for eight teams in the North America, Caribbean and Central America (CONCACAF) region. The U.S. (4-1-3, 15 points) are currently in second place in CONCACAF behind Canada (4-0-4, 16) and ahead of Mexico and Panama (both at 4-2-2, 14).
There are six games left in the octagonal, with the top three teams from CONCACAF qualifying for the World Cup in Qatar in Nov. 21-Dec. 18. A fourth will go to a play-in tournament.
It’s a bold move to come to Minnesota to play in the middle of winter, with early February average temperatures at a high of 25 degrees and a low of 9, with snow and a wind chills also possible. USMNT, which failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, want to create distinct home-field advantages, and that was seen elsewhere earlier this month when Canada beat Mexico in cold, snowy Edmonton.
If there are issues with weather, a course of action will be determined with the CONCACAF match commissioner, a source said. Allianz Field, an open-air stadium in the Midway neighborhood, has a heating system underneath its natural-grass field, so the playing surface won’t be as cold as the rest of the conditions.
The Feb. 2 game doesn’t have many alternatives for a potential delay, with the FIFA international window running from Jan. 24-Feb. 2. The U.S. hosts El Salvador in Columbus, Ohio, on Jan. 27, followed by a trip to face Canada in Hamilton, Ontario, on Jan. 30. That means there are three games in seven days for the U.S.
The USMNT returns to St. Paul for the first time since a Gold Cup group-stage win over Guyana in the summer of 2019, and Minnesota will be the 21st state to hold a World Cup qualifier. The U.S. women’s team has held two games in St. Paul, including legendary forward Carli Lloyd’s final international game in October.
“As we have seen throughout the qualifying process so far, great stadiums and great atmospheres provide a huge advantage to our team,” USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter said in a statement. “We’ve had fantastic experiences in Columbus and the Twin Cities and look forward to continuing our World Cup Qualifying campaign in front of our fans.”