How to watch and stream
- ESPN2, TUDN, UniMás, ESPN+
- Friday, Sept. 23 | 8:25 am ET
- Merkur Spiel-Arena | Düsseldorf, Germany
Since finishing third in the Concacaf Octagonal qualifying process and booking their World Cup return, this will be the USMNT’s third friendly against a World Cup-bound nation. With both games on home soil, they drew Uruguay 0-0 and beat Morocco 3-0 in June.
Here’s what awaits head coach Gregg Berhalter’s squad in their first of two September camp friendlies against a top Asian foe, with a Sept. 27 meeting against Saudi Arabia in Murcia, Spain also on the horizon.
These games build toward Group B play getting underway in Qatar on Nov. 21 vs. Wales. With the top two nations reaching the Round of 16, the USMNT will also face England (Nov. 25) and Iran (Nov. 29) in Group B.
Injuries defined much of the USMNT’s qualifying process, and Berhalter’s group will again be shorthanded against Japan. Goalkeeper Zack Steffen (Middlesbrough), left back Antonee Robinson (Fulham) and winger Tim Weah (Lille) were left off the original 26-man roster due to injury, then midfielder Yunus Musah (Valencia) and center backs Chris Richards (Crystal Palace) and Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic) were forced to withdraw as well.
Those absences will test the USMNT’s depth, especially in defense, though no greater spotlight is on the striker situation. Jordan Pefok (Union Berlin) was omitted despite strong form for the German Bundesliga’s top team, leaving Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas), Josh Sargent (Norwich City) and Ricardo Pepi (Groningen) all preferred for this tune-up camp. They’ll be hoping to reward Berhalter’s preference.
The continued return of midfielder/winger Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund) will prove crucial, and there’s an open question about goalkeeper Matt Turner’s potential rust since a summertime transfer from the New England Revolution to Arsenal.
Each roster variable spotlights how health could be the USMNT’s biggest enemy come this unprecedented November/December World Cup, with overseas clubs playing up to Nov. 13 and MLS ones until Nov. 5. The USMNT are also expected to have the youngest World Cup squad, indicative of the program’s new era after missing out on a Russia 2018 spot.
The Samurai Blue will be no slouch, with Qatar 2022 marking their seventh consecutive World Cup dating back to 1998. They also cruised through AFC qualifying, posting a 15-2-1 record from start to finish.
Most of Japan’s roster competes in Europe’s top leagues as opposed to their J1 League, with Monaco’s Takumi Minamino one of their leading scorers during qualifying. Schalke defender Maya Yoshida is their longtime captain, and forward Kyogo Furuhashi is part of a sizable Celtic contingent on their roster.
The USMNT last met Japan in a February 2006 friendly in San Francisco, Calif, a 3-2 victory courtesy of goals by Eddie Pope, Clint Dempsey and Taylor Twellman. The Samurai Blue are ranked No. 24 in FIFA’s latest world rankings, 10 spots back of the Yanks (No. 14).