FIFA confirms USA-Belgium closed-door scrimmage on day of World Cup opener
The U.S. men's national team will play a fourth opponent prior to opening its World Cup in Brazil.
FIFA confirmed that the U.S. will play Belgium in a closed-door scrimmage in Sao Paulo on June 12 -- the day of the World Cup opening match between Brazil and Croatia -- as its final match preparation for the June 16 opener against Ghana.
The USA and Belgium have become familiar foes over the last few years, playing in a pair of friendlies against one another. The most recent, in May 2013, ended with Belgium securing a 4-2 win on the night DaMarcus Beasley earned his 100th cap and Geoff Cameron scored his first international goal. Belgium scored three straight -- two by Christian Benteke -- to seize command before Clint Dempsey tacked on a late penalty kick.
The two sides also met in Sept. 2011 in Brussels, with Belgium taking a 1-0 win in rainy conditions in the third U.S. game coached by Jurgen Klinsmann.
Belgium is one of the widespread picks for dark horses to make a deep run this summer (if everyone picks Belgium, is it still considered a dark horse?), despite losing Benteke to a torn Achilles. Manager Marc Wilmots' loaded side contains the likes of Manchester City captain and center back Vincent Kompany, Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard, Everton (on loan from Chelsea) forward Romelu Lukaku and Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
There's a chance that the USA and Belgium could meet in the round of 16, should both progress. The USA's Group G and Belgium's Group H are paired together in the World Cup bracket for that round, and if one side finishes first in its group and the other finishes second, they would clash in a game with considerably more meaning than the closed-door tune-up. Prior to the scrimmage, the USA will play Azerbaijan on May 27 in San Francisco; Turkey on June 1 in Harrison, N.J.; and Nigeria on June 7 in Jacksonville, Fla.