Columbus will get a 2022 World Cup qualifier after all. After being denied the chance to host the U.S.-Mexico showpiece for a sixth consecutive cycle in favor of neighboring Cincinnati, Columbus and the Crew’s new stadium, Lower.com Field, were announced Thursday as the site of the Oct. 13 match against Costa Rica.
Ohio’s capital has hosted 10 World Cup qualifiers since 2000. The U.S. holds a 7-1-2 record in those games, which were all played at what is now called Historic Crew Stadium. The first was a 2–0 win over Costa Rica. The Crew moved into Lower.com Field, a 20,000-seat, downtown venue, at the beginning of July.
The Costa Rica qualifier will be the Americans’ sixth match of Concacaf’s eight-team, double round robin, which will send the top three finishers to the Qatar World Cup and the fourth-place side to an intercontinental playoff. It will be the U.S.’s third qualifier of the octagonal’s second three-game window, which will start in Austin, Texas, against Jamaica on Oct. 7. The U.S. will then head to Panama for a game on Oct. 10. The subsequent two-game November window opens with the Nov. 12 showdown against Mexico in Cincinnati.
Four years ago, the U.S. struggled in a 2–0 loss to Costa Rica at Red Bull Arena outside New York City. The crowd of 26,500 included several thousand Costa Rica fans, and their presence gave the proceedings an almost neutral-site feel. The setback was key to the Americans’ failure to qualify for the World Cup, and it was remembered as U.S. Soccer planned for the octagonal.
“We took a hard look at all the venues and I think one thing that was important was, we’re going to need every venue that we play in to have an absolute rocking crowd,” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said Wednesday when asked about the Cincinnati choice and the federation’s approach to qualifier scheduling.
“We feel like we made some mistakes in the last qualifying cycle, particularly in the Costa Rica game, not having a crowd that was 100% U.S. and that’s going to be extremely important,” he added.
In a Thursday statement, Berhalter, who coached the Crew for five seasons, said, “One thing you can count on in Columbus is unwavering support for the U.S. team, and that’s going to be critical in helping us get a win against Costa Rica. … I know first-hand just how incredible the bond is between the team and the fans. We can’t wait to play there.”
U.S. Soccer also appears to be prioritizing markets in the midwest and central part of the country. The four qualifying venues chosen so far—Austin, Cincinnati, Columbus and Nashville—are nowhere near the coasts. New MLS markets and stadiums also have been given the nod. Austin, Cincinnati and Nashville have all entered the league since the last qualifying cycle, while Lower.com Field joins Austin’s Q2 Stadium and Cincinnati’s TQL Stadium as brand-new venues.
The sites for three home qualifiers in January, February and March of next year have yet to be announced.
Here’s the USMNT’s up-to-date World Cup qualifying schedule:
Sept. 2 at El Salvador
Sept. 5 vs. Canada at Nissan Stadium, Nashville
Sept. 8 at Honduras
Oct. 7 vs. Jamaica at Q2 Stadium, Austin
Oct. 10 at Panama
Oct. 13 vs. Costa Rica at Lower.com Field, Columbus
Nov. 12 vs. Mexico at TQL Stadium, Cincinnati
Nov. 16 at Jamaica
Jan. 27 vs. El Salvador
Jan. 30 at Canada
Feb. 2 vs. Honduras
March 24 at Mexico
March 27 vs. Panama
March 30 at Costa Rica
More USMNT Coverage: