The US men’s national team are on course to round out their preparations for the 2022 World Cup with September friendlies vs. two of the Asian confederation’s top sides, according to a Sunday evening report from TUDN’s Daniel Nohra.
It’s not official yet, but the Yanks are in “quite advanced” talks with Japan and Saudi Arabia to meet for friendlies in Europe during the September international window (set for Sept. 19-27), posted Nohra in a tweet after the USMNT’s 0-0 draw with Uruguay at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City.
His sources indicate that sites in Germany and Spain are being considered for hosting these matches.
With large chunks of both his player pool and those of many potential opponents based in Europe, head coach Gregg Berhalter and his staff have long made clear that the camp for the September window – the final opportunity to work with his squad in person before the final roster gathers immediately before the start of the World Cup – would take place there.
One of the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a schedule dominated by Concacaf opponents for most of the past two years. The USMNT have been keen to get a taste not only of World Cup-caliber opposition but also adversaries from other regions of the world, hence the arrangement of this month’s friendlies vs. Morocco (Africa) and Uruguay (South America).
Asian nations have reportedly been under consideration for some time and Berhalter dropped a hint along those lines in his postgame press conference in KC, saying that those September games would feature teams that qualified for Qatar out of the Asian Football Confederation.
Saudi Arabia and Japan both went undefeated in the second round of AFC qualification before advancing together out of Group B in the third round as the first- and second-place finishers with 23 and 22 points, respectively. The Arabian Falcons currently sit 49th in the FIFA World Rankings while the Samurai Blue are 23rd, two slots behind Iran, Asia’s top-ranked team and one of the USMNT’s Group B opponents in Qatar.
Japan have been drawn into Group E in Qatar alongside Spain, Germany and the winner of the Costa Rica-New Zealand intercontinental playoff later this month. The Saudis will face Argentina, Mexico and Poland in Group C.
The USMNT have played neither Japan nor Saudi Arabia at the senior level for more than a decade. They last met the Saudis in the third-place match at the 1999 Confederations Cup in Mexico, a 2-0 win in Guadalajara, and defeated the Japanese 3-2 in their last clash, a 2006 friendly in San Francisco.