Soccer Down Here
USMNT to Play Northern Ireland in Belfast in March
By Bart Keeler (@bartimusprime19, @soccerforuspod)
Northern Ireland will host the United States men’s national team on Sunday, March 28, at noon ET, at Windsor Park, in Belfast. This will be the first-ever meeting between these two national teams.
The USMNT stated it will try to schedule another friendly in Europe during the March 2021 window. Northern Ireland will fit this friendly in between two World Cup Qualifiers, allowed by FIFA’s new international match window procedures.
Logically, head coach Gregg Berhalter will look to call in European-based players due to travel restrictions for COVID-19. That said, many European club matches are being altered due to the pandemic travel limitations between the Continent and the United Kingdom. As has become normal, “the game will likely be played behind closed doors,” according to the Irish FA.
The Yanks played two matches in Europe back in November 2020: a 0-0 draw against Wales and a 6-2 win over Panama. In that window, the USMNT did travel from the U.K. to Austria but circumstances are a bit different now.
Five players who were called in November play in the English Premier League. An additional four recently-called players are now in the EFL Championship. Many Americans play in the English Championship or lower, and a couple also play in Scotland. When counting Americans on the European Continent, you need more fingers and toes.
All that considered, this friendly will likely feature players many would consider first-choice at their positions on the USMNT.
It’s unclear if U.S. Soccer will try to schedule another match on the British Isles or if it will try to find a match on the Continent in the window that spans March 18–31. Because FIFA allowed for UEFA teams to play three matches in this window, this does open up more possible opponents.
The Green and White Army travel to Parma, Italy, on Thursday, March 25, to kick-off World Cup Qualifying against Italy. After the match against the U.S., Northern Ireland will host Bulgaria on Wednesday, March 31, for a World Cup Qualifier.
(photo credit: @OfficialIrishFA)