DAVID SMITH - Wednesday, August 17, 2016
US Soccer announced on Wednesday that the men's team will play New Zealand in a friendly game in October, in what should be their final tune-up before the final phase of World Cup qualifying begins.
The game will be played on Tuesday, October 11 in Washington, DC at RFK stadium, the stadium that has been the most frequent stop for the senior men's team over the years.
This will mark their 24th overall appearance in the stadium, and the team will be looking to extend their current nine-game unbeaten run at that location which has stretched back 14 years.
These two teams have played twice before, once in 1999 and again four years later, with both contests ending as identical 2-1 wins for the Americans.
New Zealand are the default powerhouse of the Oceania confederation ever since Australia jumped to the Asian confederation in 2006. They too will begin the final phase of their regional qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in November, and are odds-on favorites to win the region, although a daunting play-off against the fifth-place South American stands squarely in their path to Russia.
While having only participated in the World Cup on two previous occasions, they have the distinction of being the only undefeated team in their last visit in 2010. Even though their three draws in group play were enough to see them finish ahead of reigning champions Italy, they still missed out the knockout round.
The Kiwis have no household stars to speak of, with forward Chris Woods a regular starter at Leeds and captain Winston Reid a stalwart defender at West Ham United.
They are already scheduled to be inside of US borders during the October international window, having a friendly match against Mexico in Nashville on the docket three days prior to facing Jürgen Klinsmann's squad.
The Stars and Stripes will be returning from a slightly longer distance, as they are already scheduled to visit Cuba on October 7.
This pair of games will come a matter of weeks after the last two critical World Cup qualifying games for the Americans, where they will be looking to close out the fourth round of qualification with wins over Saint Vincent & the Grenadines and Trinidad & Tobago to top the group and move into the final hexagonal phase.