The U.S. men’s 2018 FIFA World Cup team will begin qualifying play in Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals, as a match against a yet-to-be determined opponent has been set for November 13, 2015.
No word on the opponent for the men’s team, which was placed in Group C of qualifying after a meeting of CONCACAF officials in Russia on Saturday. We do know Trinidad and Tobago is in Group C, but qualifying play in a third round will determine the other two countries: either St. Vincent and the Grenadines or Aruba, and either Antigua and Barbuda or Guatemala. Yes, this represents a pretty weak lineup of opponents.
The choice of Busch Stadium is an interesting one, as it marks the return of a high-profile match to a city that has been an important soccer-match site over the years. From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
When the United States was last here for World Cup qualifying, St. Louis was very much one of the hubs of the sport in America. Two of the team’s five home matches in the final round of qualifying for Italy 1990 were held at the Soccer Park in Fenton, as well as a match in an earlier round of qualifying. In their most recent qualifier here, the United States tied El Salvador 0-0 on Nov. 5, 1989, a result that put their hopes of qualifying for the 1990 World Cup in danger. The team had to win on the road two weeks later in Trinidad and Tobago to secure the spot.
Since then, times have changed. Back then, St. Louis was one of the few places the national team could count on drawing good crowds. (The others were Connecticut and Southern California.) But as the hosts, the team didn’t have to qualify for the 1994 World Cup, and by the 1998 tournament and the birth of Major League Soccer, other cities became attractive destinations. Meanwhile, the team had outgrown the Soccer Park, which back then seated about 8,500 fans.
In fact, earlier this year the U.S. women’s team drew 35,817 to Busch Stadium in a World Cup tuneup match.