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U.S. Men's National Soccer Team to play World Cup qualifying game in Columbus

lower.com field in Columbus covered in snow.

Under frigid conditions, the United States men’s national team (USMNT) plays tonight in Columbus at Lower.com Field vs. El Salvador in a World Cup qualifying game.

Soccer officials say bringing the game to the city in January during a cold winter month can potentially give the U.S. team an advantage over teams from a warmer climate.

“Cold weather is nothing new for our players,” said Amy Hopfinger, Vice President for the U.S. Soccer Federation, and advisor to FIFA for its World Cup city selection process. “They’ve also been in Columbus since Monday, training and training outdoors getting ready for the weather.”

Columbus Crew player, forward Gyasi Zardes is on the U.S. team. The head coach is former Crew head coach, Gregg Berhalter.

Hopfinger said the next qualifying game is in Ontario, Canada versus Canada on January 30. The game following is back in the U.S. in St. Paul, Minnesota February 2.

“And given our success in Columbus, our comfort in Columbus, and given a unique opportunity to play in Minnesota, those two really popped up for us,” said Hopfinger. “A lot of our players are based in Europe or based in MLS teams that have variable weather.”

Despite the cold weather, Hopfinger expects the Columbus and Minnesota game to be sell-outs. After these qualifying rounds, the players will go back to their club teams.

The world cup qualifying events end in March with three more games, two games played in Mexico. One is played in Orlando, versus Panama.

“Given our position in second, [we're] cautiously optimistic and looking for a really strong showing in this window and hopefully wrapping it up,” said Hopfinger.

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.