So the choice has been made, the announcement coming later than most would have preferred.
Denver will be the site of the United States’ national team’s first home match in final stage World Cup qualifying. The Americans will play Costa Rica on March 22 at Dicks Sporting Goods Park.
Even before today’s official announcement from U.S. Soccer, the feet-stomping consternation was already growing to full boil. “Denver? Why doggone Denver? What have they done to deserve such a plum?”
Well everyone really needs to calm down on this one.
No, the Colorado Rapids aren’t setting attendance records. But Denver and Dicks Sporting Goods Park will serve just fine as a U.S. Soccer qualifier destination. In the big picture, U.S. Soccer should basically consider two things when choosing World Cup qualifier destinations:
- Competitive advantages, foremost. This includes, but probably isn’t limited to, field conditions, any edge that weather might create, ability to tweak the crowd balance as much as possible and logistical considerations of the before and after.
- Some degree of diversity and variety in venue selection. That is, geographic diversity across a big land (a game West, a game East, one in the Heartland, one in the deep south, etc.) and some effort to spread the significant U.S. matches among as many communities as possible within the context of the first consideration. (Because, do we really want a see a game in freakin’ New England every year, as U.S. Soccer once seemed determined to provide us?)
Within those two overriding considerations, it would be great if U.S. Soccer gave more weight to the MLS clubs that have spent handsomely to develop their own grounds, a la the choice of Houston as this year’s first U.S. men’s friendly site.
That’s about it. No community should feel any more entitled to a match than the next one – no matter how well the MLS games do or don’t draw.
The group stage of qualification is complete, as 20 teams have clinched a berth at EURO 2016, which kicks off next summer in France.
The top-two finishers in each group automatically qualified, as did the best third-place side out of all the groups (Turkey). France qualified automatically as the host nation.
[ MORE: EURO 2016 roundup ]
That leaves eight third-place teams to battle for the final four spots through a play-off. The draw for the matchups will take place on October 18, and those matches will be held from November 12-17 as a home-and-home play-off.
- Czech Republic
- Turkey (automatically qualified as best third-place side)
- Bosnia and Herzegovina (qualified for play-off)
- Ukraine (qualified for play-off)
- Republic of Ireland (qualified for play-off)
- Slovenia (qualified for play-off)
- Northern Ireland
- Hungary (qualified for play-off)
- Sweden (qualified for play-off)
- Norway (qualified for play-off)
- Denmark (qualified for play-off)
The group stage of qualifying for the 2016 European Championship has come to a close, and one of the top teams in the world will not be playing in France next summer.
Netherlands 2-3 Czech Republic
The Netherlands finished second at the 2010 World Cup and third at the 2014 World Cup, but have failed to qualify for EURO 2016. Playing in front of a home crowd in a must-win match against the Czech Republic, the Dutch got off to a dreadful start, falling behind 2-0 as manager Danny Blind was forced to make a substitution within the opening 40 minutes. The Czech Republic was sent to ten men before the break, but an own-goal from Robin Van Persie made it 3-0 as the Dutch couldn’t recover. A disastrous result for the Netherlands, as big changes will surely come from the top down.
[ RELATED: David de Gea fighting for starting goalkeeper position with Spain ]
Italy 2-1 Norway
Italy finishes atop Group H without a loss after defeating Norway 2-1 today. Norway took the lead through Norwich City’s Alexander Tettey, but late goals from Alessandro Florenzi and Southampton’s Graziano Pelle gave the Italians all three points.
Malta 0-1 Croatia
With Norway’s loss, Croatia jumped into second place in Group H and secured qualification to EURO 2016 with a 1-0 win away at Malta. Inter Milan’s Ivan Perisic scored the game’s only goal, as Croatia advances despite having one point deducted due to inappropriate actions from their fans.
Elsewhere in EURO qualifying
Turkey 1-0 Iceland
Latvia 0-1 Kazakhstan
Belgium 3-1 Israel
Wales 2-0 Andorra
Cyprus 2-3 Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bulgaria 2-0 Azerbaijan