USMNT returns to action with friendly against Northern Ireland on March 28
CHICAGO – The U.S. Men’s National Team will continue preparations for a significant year that includes the Concacaf Nations League Final Four in June, the Gold Cup in July and the start of 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying when it returns to action against Northern Ireland on March 28 in Belfast.
Kickoff at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park is set for 12 p.m. ET, and the match will be broadcast live on FOX, UniMás and TUDN.
Due to the current conditions related to the global pandemic, the match will be conducted under the UEFA Return to Play Protocol and be played without fans in the stadium. U.S. Soccer is continuing the effort to secure a second match in Europe during the window.
With the match falling on a FIFA fixture date, USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter will have the opportunity to call in players based domestically and abroad.
“This is a good opportunity to work with our full group before the Nations League Final Four in June,” Berhalter said. “We’ve been excited about the progress our players continue to make with their clubs, and now we have another chance to strengthen our group ahead of the start of World Cup qualifying later this year. Northern Ireland is a very competitive team and brings a different set of challenges in the way they play. We look forward to a great experience.”
Northern Ireland will play the friendly in between its first two qualifying matches for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The Green and White Army opens March 25 away to Group C top seed Italy, followed by a home date on March 31 against Bulgaria. They narrowly missed out on qualifying for the 2020 European Championship, falling to Slovakia in extra time of the Playoff Finals last November.
The staging of the camp and the match will fall under the comprehensive U.S. Soccer Return to Play Protocols and Guidelines and in line with the UEFA Return to Play Protocols, with stringent oversight by the Irish Football Association.
The U.S. team and staff will operate inside a controlled environment. Everyone entering the controlled environment will undergo multiple COVID-19 tests in advance of traveling, and then will be tested upon arrival and at least every two days during camp. There will be no full team training until the results of all arrival tests are confirmed.
AGAINST NORTHERN IRELAND
It’s been more than 70 years since the only meeting between the United States and Northern Ireland, a 5-0 victory for the hosts on Aug. 11, 1948, in Belfast. Led by Leicester City defender Jonathan Evans, the squad is typically comprised of players appearing in the top two divisions in England. Rangers midfielder Steven Davis serves as captain and is the leading cap-winner in team history with 124 appearances.
COMPETITION COMING UP
The March window is a prelude to three significant competitions in 2021, beginning with the Concacaf Nations League final four. Winners of League A’s Group A, the USMNT takes on Honduras in one semifinal, while Mexico and Costa Rica will square off in the other, with the winners competing for the inaugural Nations League title. The matches are scheduled for the FIFA window in the first week of June, with the venues and times still to be determined.
The following month, the U.S. will compete in the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup in search of its seventh confederation championship title. The USMNT has been drawn into Group A with Canada, Martinique and a third team to be determined through a qualifying tournament. The United States last lifted the trophy in 2017, when Jordan Morris netted the game-winner against Jamaica in the 2-1 victory.
Those games serve as prelude to the start of 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying, which will feature an eight-team final round and commence in Sept. of 2021.