Not only did the U.S. men's national draw a taxing set of World Cup competition for its Group G slate of matches, but it will do so in some trying conditions, playing its three games in some of the World Cup’s most northern cities.
Why does that matter? More travel; more heat.
The U.S. will start off its trip on June 16 in Natal, the tournament’s third-most northern site on South America’s eastern-most point, about 1,770 miles from the 23-man roster’s Brazilian base of Sao Paulo. After the matchup with Ghana, the U.S. will travel to the inland Amazon rainforest to the northern most host city to face Portugal in Manaus on June 22. From there, the U.S. men return to the coast, a bit south of Natal, to play Germany on June 26 in Recife. At least the U.S. will visit a recently completed, brand-new stadium for each of its games. Here's a look at all three of the venues hosting Jurgen Klinsmann's side:
Opened in January, this 42,000-seat stadium took the place of a 1972-built venue. Designed in the curving nature of the sand dunes the venue is named after, everything about the exterior resembles the flowing nature of the area’s prized dunes.
The building’s façade and roof were formed with 20 petal-shaped modules. With one side of the stadium higher than the other, designers wanted to offer an impression of shifting dunes. Each module was shaped with steel trusses and filled with thermal and acoustic insulation before getting covered with aluminum tiles. A PVC membrane coats them to give them their aesthetic look. See-through polycarbonate joins the sections, allowing light to filter into the stands.
The roof proves more than aesthetic, with gutters collecting the rainwater and conveying it to nine tanks housed below the lower stands for reuse in toilets and to water the Bermuda Tifway 419 pitch, which includes a drainage system designed for play even during extreme rain.
The four-level venue has a mix of luxury and general seating, the closest just 50 feet from the pitch. Organizers say the fan and player amenities throughout Estadio das Dunas prove modern.
The U.S.’s match against Ghana will mark the second of four total matches scheduled for a stadium that will live beyond the World Cup, with two club teams signed on to play there for the next 20 years.
Designed as a multi-purpose venue for trade shows and concerts in the city’s center, a square at the venue’s entrance on Prudente de Moraes Avenue will offer fans a place to congregate throughout the tournament, especially considering the stadium’s capacity makes it one of the smallest of the 12 venues.
Humor the designers on this one and think of this rainforest stadium as a straw basket, full of Brazilian fruit—hey, the seats are all tones of yellow, orange and red. That truly Brazilian image was the goal for the designers of Arena Amazonia in this 42,000-seat remotely posted venue.
The metal façade reduces in size as it stretches into the roof, creating the “indigenous basket” shape made from X-shaped modules. Fittingly, the 7,000-ton metal framework was manufactured in Portugal, the U.S.’ opponent in what will the third of four total games played in the stadium. The pieces took 15 days to cross from Europe to Brazil.
To fill in the space around the metal, 252 membrane panels made from Teflon and fiberglass create a see-through, sun-reflecting skin.
Inside, the brightly colored seats, a play on the local fruits of Brazil, will fill with fans likely sitting through 100-degree temperatures with humidity easily around 99 percent, with the closest seats about 50 feet from the pitch.
Similar to other World Cup venues, rainwater hitting the venue will get collected for use in toilets and to water the Bermuda Tifway 419 grass and the stadium will capture sunshine help provide energy.
But building Arena Amazonia didn’t come without hardship. Three workers died due to accidents suffered while on site and the cost to ship building materials skyrocketed the overall price of the venue. With no top-level club team in the city, the brand-new stadium faces an uncertain future after it hosts just four group-stage matches.
Anchoring a new “World Cup City” full of shops, new homes and offices outside the main downtown area in this coastal town just south of Natal, the six-story, 46,000-seat stadium opened in May 2013, making it the oldest—and largest—venue the U.S. will visit during the group stage.
The stadium’s façade continues upward into a roof that covers the majority of the stands, all clad in the same ETFE material made popular by Germany’s Allianz Arena, which allows for transparency and a playful use of light displays. Each of the venue’s four corners includes an entrance ramp, breaking up the whiteness and softness of the ETFE with concrete.
YOUNG: WC host site Recife boasts unique culture, danger
The green of the Bermuda Tifway 419 grass—the U.S. will play on the same type of turf for all three group stage matches—will contrast with the all-red seats just 36 feet away, a colorful tribute to the fact that all three local club teams have red in their color schemes.
With expectations of plenty of heat outside during the match, the new two-tiered stadium has the VIP and player amenities of a modern venue, including a pair of 2,000-square-foot locker rooms, inside warm-up areas and ample training space.
With the U.S. playing in the fourth and final group stage match the building will host, Arena Pernambuco won’t be done when the Americans leave Recife, as the stadium will also host a round of 16 knockout match.
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.