When the final whistle blew in Red Bull Arena on September 1, thousands of fans cheered and waved red, white and blue flags. Unfortunately, not the correct flags.
Following the World Cup Qualifying loss to Costa Rica, soccer fans began to question the scheduling tactics of the United States Soccer Federation.
The general rule in qualifying is to win home games and pick up points on the road.
This qualifying session however, wins at home were harder to come by than normal.
Common sense would say that the best idea is to play home games in American-friendly venues. Yet in a country known as a melting pot with large numbers of immigrants and first-generation citizens, not all stadium locations are the same.
For example, playing a CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying game against Mexico in San Antonio, where 57 percent of the population is of Mexican descent, may not be the best idea.
So when the U.S. Federation decided to host the Costa Rica game in the New York – New Jersey area, it seemed a bit naïve.
New York and New Jersey are both in the top five for states with the highest Costa Rican American population.
Now say what you want about expecting the U.S. team to win no matter the city. We could 10,000 words about that. And there’s plenty of other factors involved in deciding the venue. But the truth is that any team in any country should focus on home-field advantage above all else.
The United States is full of rabid U.S. soccer fans. Kansas City, Nashville, Cincinnati and St. Louis are all viable options that avoid CONCACAF rival-friendly populations.
Tonight, the U.S. plays host to Panama in what is basically a must-win game. We need all the home-field advantage we can get. The crowds at Orlando City matches have been second to none, so we are hoping the American Outlaws show up in full force.
But we can’t help but look at the Panamanian population in Florida. Orlando ranks #6 on the list of top Panamanian populations in the U.S. and Miami, just three hours down the road, ranks #2.
Hindsight is 20-20, but we sure hope the U.S. Soccer Federation makes smarter decisions in 2020-2021 to take advantage of the many cities that would pack a stadium with 95% USA fans.