The US men’s national team may go somewhere new and distant for their annual January camp this winter.
Very new and distant.
Coach Gregg Berhalter and his staff are making plans to host the 2020 January camp in Qatar, Yahoo! Sports reported on Thursday, with the idea of providing the squad with a preview of what daily life and logistics might be like in the Persian Gulf nation when it hosts the 2022 FIFA World Cup. In January the team would play a friendly there vs. international opposition, as well as possible closed-door scrimmages vs. European club teams holding winter-break training camps in the Gulf region, before jetting home for a second friendly on home soil.
Yahoo!’s Doug McIntyre reports that Berhalter visited Qatar earlier this month following his team’s friendly matches vs. Mexico and Uruguay, a trip that a U.S. Soccer spokesperson confirmed. Next year the former Columbus Crew SC coach will lead the USMNT into Concacaf qualifying for the 2022 tournament, seeking to rebound from the program’s shock failure to qualify for last year’s World Cup in Russia.
Located halfway around the world from the United States – a 16-hour flight from Los Angeles – Qatar is expected to provide a very different World Cup experience for participants and fans, with a hot desert climate leading FIFA to shift the event to November and December and the oil-rich nation's small size (roughly comparable to Connecticut) making for minimal in-country travel.
Long held at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California – also the home of the LA Galaxy – January camp was this year moved 120 miles south to the Olympic training complex in Chula Vista to foster focus and team bonding in a more isolated setting. Typically made up mostly of MLS players due to the league’s spring-to-fall schedule, the gathering provides USMNT pool members with opportunities to impress the coaching staff and build offseason fitness and form.
There’s precedent for moving it overseas as World Cup preparation, most notably when Jurgen Klinsmann held the 2014 January camp in Brazil, six months before that nation hosted that year’s tournament.