If you are wondering who the U.S. men's national team will be lining up for friendlies in 2010, it appears the first of those opponents has been lined up, while another potential opponent has surfaced.
According to reports out of Honduras, the U.S. men's national team will face fellow World Cup participant Honduras on Sunday, January 24 at Home Depot Center in Carson, California.
The meeting would be the first for the sides since the Americans posted a 3-2 victory in San Pedro Sula on Oct. 10 to clinch their World Cup place. That win by the Americans was their fourth of 2009 in four meetings between the teams this year.
The Americans are also reportedly trying to finalize a friendly with Northern Ireland, with the match potentially being played in March or May.
Before you get too upset about the Americans not lining up a tougher, or less familiar opponent, it should be noted that the date in question is not a FIFA fixture date, which means European-based players do not need to be released by their clubs, making the list of potential opponents a much smaller one.
This particular friendly will likely be used to test out MLS and Scandinavian-based Americans. Some of those players will be fringe players trying to move their way up the depth chart. Honduras will also likely field a mostly domestic squad of candidates fighting for their own places on the Honduran World Cup team.
With neither team expected to have its European-based players (at least players from leagues in season), the friendly is more likely to resemble one of the two Gold Cup matches the teams played last July. The United States defeated Honduras twice during the Gold Cup fielding a team made up mainly of MLS players, while Honduras also fielded a team made up mainly of domestic players.
The U.S. team's first chance to field its full squad and take on a full-strength opponent will come on March 3rd, 2010, which currently stands as the lone FIFA fixture date on the calendar. A friendly against the Netherlands has been rumored (and has been listed on FIFA's website for months), and was expected to be finalized this month, but has yet to be announced officially. As for Honduras, the 'Catrachos' are considering March friendlies vs. Turkey or Greece, while a match against England might materialize in May if the English can't land a Mexico friendly.
A potential Northern Ireland match is an interesting proposition because while it fulfills a desire to face another team from the UK, and a team with a somewhat similar style to England, Northern Ireland also faced Slovenia, a USA World Cup opponent, in World Cup qualifying. Northern Ireland defeated Slovenia, 1-0, in a qualifier in Belfast on April 1.
Those not familiar with Northern Ireland should note that the team has a solid squad that would provide a tough test, with players including Johnny Evans (Manchester United), Kyle Lafferty (Rangers) as well as Fulham teammate Aaron Hughes and Chris Baird.
What is the SBI take? Considering the limitations and lack of a FIFA fixture date in January or February, Honduras is more than a good enough opponent to give Bob Bradley a good look at some players looking to play their way onto the team. The Netherlands friendly would be Bradley's last chance to field a first-choice squad before picking his 23-man roster, and would also likely be his first chance to get a look at German-born midfielder Jermaine Jones, who is now eligible to play for the United States and who is on the comeback trail from knee surgery.
What do you think of this news? Looking forward to seeing which players are called into the U.S. team's January camp? Who will you be hoping gets a start vs. Honduras? Praying the USA-Netherlands friendly comes to fruition?
Share your thoughts below.