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Venue Guide: Check out where the USA will play at 2014 World Cup in Brazil

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With all the excitement of the World Cup draw last Friday for Brazil 2014, now seems like a good time to take a closer look at the cities and stadiums the U.S. national team will play in next summer.

As we all know, Jurgen Klinsmann’s side were handed and incredibly tough draw In Group G with Germany, Portugal and Ghana standing in their way of making it to the knockout stages. Ahem, ‘Group of Death’…

But what many have overlooked is the fact that in the group stages the USA will play in three of the four most Northern cities hosting games in the World Cup, which means unbearable heat, incredible humidity and will put plenty of extra strain on the players bodies as they play three games in 10 days.

FULL WORLD CUP DRAW ARCHIVE FROM PROSOCCERTALK

So, from the Amazon to the North East coastal resorts, here’s a look at what cities fans of the USMNT will be visiting if they’re lucky enough to be heading to South America to cheer on the Yanks. Plus, we take a cheeky look at the venues the USA may play at in the knockout stages, if they make it out of the dreaded ‘Group of Death.’

Warning: take plenty of sun block… and a hat.

source: Getty Images
Estadio das Dunas stadium, named after the famous sand dunes which are in the region of Natal, is a beauty.

NATAL – 16 June, 6pm ET: Ghana v USA

City: In the far North East of Brazil, a tropical climate awaits the USA (that will be a running theme here) as Natal enjoys over 300 days of sunshine per year and is known as ‘Sun City’ in Brazil. Heavy European influence adorns the buildings and architecture of the city and tourism plays a big part in the local economy due to wonders such as Ponta Negra, Genipabu, Redinha, Pipa, Pirangi and the fabulous beaches along the coast. This area has struggled for any domestic soccer success for quite some time as fierce rivals America Futebol Clube and ABC Futebol Clube have both struggled since the 1980’s.

Stadium: The Estadio das Dunas has been newly constructed and it’s fantastic curving shape emulates the sand dunes Natal is famous for. A capacity of over 42,086 means it’s the smallest stadium at the World Cup. Could prove difficult to get tickets for this one.

source: Getty Images
The Arena Amazônia is the host stadium in the humid confides of the Amazon rainforest. Will the USA handle the heat?

MANAUS 22 June, 6pm ET: USA v Portugal

City: One of the most spectacular, yet problematic, venues in World Cup history, the Amazonian capital of Manaus is host to the USA’s game against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal. Humidity around the 99 percent mark is likely to greet the USMNT, as well as heat in excess of 100 degrees in the heart of the Amazon rainforest but plenty of stunning sights, such as the convergence of the Negro and Amazon rivers, will make a trip to Manaus a one in a life-time experience. The most northern venue boasts quite a poor crime-record, so be on your guard.

Stadium: There are plenty of concerns over the heat and conditions deep in the world’s largest rainforest, as the kick off time has been moved backwards, but what a stadium they’ve built to welcome the world into the Amazon. Huge interwoven rafters mimics the wooden baskets this region is now far, but once again the capacity is only just over 42,000 so the USA will be playing in another of Brazil’s smallest host stadiums.

source: AP
The Arena Pernambuco has already hosted Confederations Cup games and is ready to go.

RECIFE – 26 June, 12pm ET: USA v Germany

City: Just down the coast from Natal, Recife is the state capital of Pernambuco and the fourth largest metropolitan area in Brazil. The gorgeous beaches close to urban areas makes this city unique and a heavy Dutch influence from the 16th century can be found amongst the architecture. Just like Natal and Manaus, this sprawling Northern city also enjoys searing temperatures and the USA’s noon kick off time vs. Germany may actually play in their favor. Well, at least more of the USMNT’s players will be used to playing in hot conditions compared to the Germans.

Stadium: Built through public and private funding, the stadium is now home to Clube Nautico Capibaribe, one of Recife’s three professional teams. With a capacity of 46,154, again it’s not the biggest stadium in Brazil but there’s sure to be a terrific atmosphere in the ‘capital of the North-east’ when the U.S. face Germany in their pivotal last group game. The stadium itself is located outside of the city proper and close to the region known as Grande Recife where huge poverty affects the local people, but this venue has regenerated the area by offering shops, jobs and other businesses to locals.

USA’s potential venues in knockout stages

Last 16: Porto Alegre on June 30 or Salvador on July 1

Quarterfinal: Rio de Janiero on July 4 or Brasilia on July 5

Semifinal: Belo Horizonte on July 8 or Sao Paulo on July 8

3/4 place game: Brasilia on July 12

Final: Maracana Stadium, Rio de Janiero on July 13

Kasper Schmeichel wants to play for Denmark 6 days after hernia surgery

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27: Kasper Schmeichel of Leicester City in action during the Premier League match between Leicester City and Swansea City at The King Power Stadium on August 27, 2016 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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Former Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel was tough, but his son might be tougher.

Leicester City shot-stopper Kasper Schmeichel had hernia surgery earlier Monday, and while that seems like it would sideline him for some time, apparently not.

The 29-year-old tweeted from the hospital bed that he is aiming for a return on Sunday – just six days removed from surgery – when his native Denmark takes on Armenia in World Cup qualification.

That’s…ambitious. Not surprising though, given the ambition Leicester City showed last season stunning everyone to win the title.

Schmeichel was injured against Swansea on Saturday in Premier League play when he made a clearance and came up notably uncomfortable. He was replaced in the 57th minute by new Foxes signing Ron-Robert Zieler. According to manager Claudio Ranieri, the club had already planned surgery for this problem even before Saturday’s flare-up due to the recurring nature of the problem.

Sadly, the Wednesday’s friendly against Liechtenstein comes a little too soon for Schmeichel. It will be the first international match he will miss since March of 2015. We’ll give him a pass, considering most of us would still be in post-op then.

Report: Zardes injury is serious, broken foot could end his season

SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 16:  Gyasi Zardes #9 of the United States dribbles against Jefferson Montero #7 of Ecuador during the 2016 Quarterfinal - Copa America Centenario match at CenturyLink Field on June 16, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. The United States beat Ecuador 2-1.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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According to Goal.com’s Ives Galarcep, the injury that forced Gyasi Zardes to withdraw from USMNT consideration for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers is serious and could have much larger consequences.

Zardes reportedly suffered a broken right foot, and could not just miss the rest of the 2016 MLS season, but the rest of the calendar year, ruling him out of not just the two upcoming matches, but also the beginning of the Hexagonal in November should the U.S. advance to the next round.

The 24-year-old was injured just after halftime in an MLS match against Vancouver on Saturday, when he was brought down by Kendall Watson. It’s hard to see in full-speed what happens, but upon closer inspection, it appears that Watson’s follow-through catches the inside of Zardes’s right foot. He continued to play but looked less than healthy when he was finally substituted off in the 87th minute.

Zardes has been a rare youthful yet important cog in the USMNT machine the past few years. He played every minute of the Copa America run to the 3rd place match, and he has missed just two matches since making his debut in January of 2015, giving him 31 caps already despite a debut just 19 months ago.

The injury is also a serious blow for the LA Galaxy. Zardes had come onto the field in the 31st minute to replace an injured Steven Gerrard, and in-form defender Jelle van Damme had also departed the match with a knee ligament injury which will see him miss 2-3 weeks.

Michail Antonio thought he was being pranked when he got his England call-up

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28:  Michail Antonio of West Ham during the Premier League match between Manchester City and West Ham at Etihad Stadium on August 28, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
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Many were surprised when they saw West Ham winger Michail Antonio on Sam Allardyce‘s first England squad list.

Including Michail Antonio.

In fact, Antonio admitted he thought he was being pranked, or at the very least, the butt of a joke. Then he saw the proof, and began to get emotional.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Speaking with the official England Instagram account, Antonio said, “So literally I’ve done an interview at the end of the game [West Ham’s 3-1 loss to Manchester City on Sunday] and then I’ve come in and the physio’s come over to me and gone ‘you’ve been called up.’ I was like ‘haha funny’ and he’s gone ‘no no seriously’ and I was like ‘good banter!'”

[ MORE: West Ham falls to Manchester City 3-1 ]

The 26-year-old said he stared at the physio for a good 30 seconds before he was shown the official paper, at which point he began “welling up.” The water works came soon after. “So I gave my missus a call, obviously she doesn’t pick up. And then I just got myself mentally ready and waited for it to come out.”

Antonio has two goals in three Premier League games this season, although he struggled in West Ham’s season opener against Chelsea when forced to deputize at right-back. The London-born winger has never played under Allardyce, having joined the Hammers just a few months after Big Sam’s departure from West Ham.

Earthquakes fire longtime general manager John Doyle

SANTA CLARA, CA - AUGUST 25: San Jose Earthquakes owner, John Doyle announces the San Jose Earthquakes new stadium ground breaking set for October 21st 2012 before the game between the Colorado Rapids and the San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium on August 25, 2012 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Tony Medina/Getty Images)
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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — The San Jose Earthquakes fired longtime general manager John Doyle on Monday, replacing him with technical director Chris Leitch on an interim basis.

Coach Dominic Kinnear and his staff remain in place, the team said.

Doyle, who in 2005 was the inaugural member of the San Jose Earthquakes Hall of Fame, had been the general manager since October 2007 and helped bring the franchise back following a two-year absence. He is a former player, assistant coach and color analyst with the organization.

San Jose has a 7-8-11 record for seventh place in the Western Conference and was three points back of Portland for the final playoff berth.