The U.S. and Puerto Rico senior men's national teams will share a soccer field for the first time on May 22 as part of U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s preparation for the upcoming Copa América Centenario.
The Americans now have three exhibitions scheduled in advance of the June tournament. Klinsmann plans to open camp in Miami on May 16 for players based in Europe and Mexico. Those who play for MLS clubs then would join up following their league games on May 20-22. In order to keep the early arrivals in match rhythm, however, Klinsmann wanted to add an extra friendly to the schedule. Puerto Rico obliged, and the teams will meet May 22 at the Estadio Juan Ramón Loubriel in Bayamón.
"This will be an important opportunity for our players stay sharp and keep progressing towards our opener against Colombia, and we appreciate all the efforts by the Puerto Rican Football Federation to help organize the match,” Klinsmann said.
The manager will need to supplement his squad for training and then the Puerto Rico game itself with additional players, some of whom may come from the U.S. U-23 and U-20 pools. Following the friendly, those on the Copa roster will move on to Dallas, where they’ll meet up with the MLS-based players for the next phase of camp. Klinsmann must submit his 23-man team to tournament organizers by May 20.
The U.S. will entertain Ecuador on on May 25 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas and then Bolivia on May 28 at Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas. The Americans will open their Copa América slate on June 3 against Colombia at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.
Despite deep political, demographic, economic and cultural ties, the U.S. and Puerto Rico never have met at soccer’s highest level. Puerto Rico currently is ranked 172nd in the world and 26th in CONCACAF. Its most impressive accomplishment was advancing to the second round of the Caribbean Cup back in 1993, when it missed out on making the semifinals by a single point. One of the key contributors to that team was New York City native Chris Armas, a promising midfielder who would go on to star for the LA Galaxy, Chicago Fire and USA. FIFA didn’t consider the Caribbean Cup an official competition at the time, allowing Armas to switch his international allegiance in 1998.
New York City FC defender Jason Hernandez is in the Puerto Rican player pool and made his debut last month in a Caribbean Cup game against Guyana. And NYCFC goalie Josh Saunders played for Puerto Rico in 2008.
Bayamón will be the home of NASL expansion team Puerto Rico FC, which is owned by New York Knick star Carmelo Anthony. The club will begin play in July as the NASL opens its fall season. PRFC replaces the defunct Puerto Rico Islanders, who won the U.S. second-tier championship in 2010.