A lot has already been written about the ludicrous decision by U.S. Soccer to play tonight’s CONCACAF World Cup Qualifier in Minnesota. But I wanted to add my two-cents. It is an utterly asinine decision that endangers player safety and shows a total lack of common sense or general human decency.
The USMNT fan in me would be upset if CONCACAF forfeited the match and gave Honduras three points. The reasonable, logical person in me wouldn’t find much to be upset with. That’s how dangerous it is.
At kickoff, the temperature is expected to be in the low single digits and could drop below zero at some point during the match. With the wind chill, it will feel like -10 degrees and colder. Frostbite is a legitimate concern for anyplace the players have exposed skin — at those temperatures the National Weather Service estimate is 30 minutes for frostbite. If the temperature gets colder or there is a bit more wind than expected, that estimate drops to 10 minutes. And it won’t take much. Per that linked chart, the weather forecast is right on the borderline between 30 minutes and 10 minutes to frostbite.
And that’s before you get to the general injury risk from much colder muscles, impact with a frozen-solid pitch, and even striking a rock-hard ball.
The players will have to wear extra skin covering. The teams will have heated benches and blankets, hot drinks and chicken broth, and constant extra monitoring by medical personnel. Fans will be given hand-warmers, and there will be extra first-aid teams roaming the stands to ensure fan safety from the cold.
Come on. What the heck are we doing here?
The U.S. thinks playing in extreme cold will give them an advantage over Honduras. After all, most of the U.S. players play in Europe and the States, where cold weather matches are common. The Honduran players play almost exclusively in Central America.
They’re going to take a couple breaths in and it’s going to hit them like they’ve never been hit before. And our guys, who have been playing in Europe in cooler temperatures … we’ll be ready to go.
U.S. Soccer’s stated strategy is to put matches in places where there will be a pro-U.S. home crowd.
You know El Salvador in D.C. is really tough. You can’t play there. It would be a home game for El Salvador if you do that. Honduras, very similar. Eastern seaboard, New York, similar for Honduras and El Salvador. As you get towards warmer weather, potentially in Florida, you’re still running that risk of the crowd.
I have an idea: attract more American fans. Make your product, your marketing, whatever something that brings more U.S. Soccer fans in rather than searching for places to keep fans of other countries out. It doesn’t worry the team brass that they can’t fill a stadium with U.S. fans from the 8 million people in NYC? Or the 5.5 million people in the D.C. metro area (with D.C. as one of the low-key best, most avid soccer cities in the country)?
And it’s just as likely that the USMNT has hamstrung itself in trying to create a home field advantage as it has given the side an extra edge. There comes a point (and the weather in Minnesota is well beyond that) where it doesn’t matter how cold it is, it’s going to negatively affect both teams. Like, do we think that Christian Pulisic and Weston McKinnie are immune to the cold?
Honduras are terrible. They have 0 wins from 10 matches played. They’ve scored 5 goals and conceded 19. The U.S. should blow the doors off Honduras in any weather. But we’ve put the match in a place that’s going to gum up the works and make fast-paced, expressive, skillful football more difficult.
Again, what the heck are we doing here?