The first two matches of the Gregg Berhalter era are set in stone for the U.S. men's national team, and the schedule for his first year is coming into focus.
The first two matches of the Gregg Berhalter era are set in stone for the U.S. men's national team.
The U.S. will play against Panama at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on Jan. 27 before heading to San Jose, Calif., to face Costa Rica on Feb. 2 to conclude the team's annual winter camp, U.S. Soccer announced on Tuesday.
The matches against the two Concacaf foes will take place outside of an official FIFA fixture window, meaning largely domestic-based squads will be called in, as is regularly the case for the winter friendlies the U.S. plays. The camp begins Jan. 7 in Chula Vista, Calif and concludes with the two matches, which will serve as Berhalter's first taste of international management and begin to paint the picture of what his first year will look like.
After the two games, there's a FIFA window and likely a pair of friendlies in March, which will be the first time that Berhalter has the full player pool at his disposal. He said in his introductory comments in New York on Tuesday that after attending MLS Cup on Saturday, he'll head to Europe to meet with some U.S. players as he familiarizes himself better with the pool.
There are no FIFA windows in April or May, meaning that the March camp will be the only one with the full complement of players before the pre-Gold Cup camp and Concacaf competition this June.
The Gold Cup will be held from June 15-July 7, after which the U.S. will open play in the Concacaf Nations League. The new competition, akin to what UEFA staged this fall, kicks its group stage off in September. The U.S. and the five other teams from the previous Concacaf World Cup Qualifying Hexagonal are guaranteed to play in League A, along with six other sides that will be known in March 2019. Following the conclusion of group play in the fall of 2019, the subsequent semifinals and final will be held in March 2020.
But before all of that, Berhalter will lead the U.S. against a familiar opponent. Panama was one of four nations to finish ahead of the U.S. in World Cup qualifying in October 2017, sealing the USMNT's fate when Roman Torres scored a late winner against Costa Rica as the U.S. was losing to Trindad & Tobago. The U.S. men are 12-1-6 all-time against Panama, including a comfortable win on the penultimate matchday of the Concacaf Hex that seemed to have pointed the U.S. in the direction of Russia until disaster struck.