It’s official. As Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated reported six days ago, Orlando City Stadium will host a World Cup qualifier between the United States Men’s National Team and Panama on Oct. 6. It will be the first major external event held at the club’s new stadium and marks the second straight World Cup cycle that MLS clubs will host all of the USMNT’s Hex matches.
“We’ve been very open about our objectives to bring world-class events to Central Florida with the completion of our new venue and this is a natural evolution of those plans,” CEO Alex Leitão said. “We’ve seen the engagement from our supporters and the impact they have on our MLS and National Women’s Soccer League teams, and we are excited to see the atmosphere and energy they will bring when the U.S. National Team comes to town to play their last home qualifying match of the tournament.”
The qualifier will be yet another major soccer event to be hosted in Orlando. The City Beautiful was a 2016 Copa America Centenario host and was selected for the upcoming 2017 International Champions Cup match at Camping World Stadium between PSG and Tottenham. Most recently, the NWSL awarded Orlando City Stadium the league’s 2017 championship game. OCS will also host the women’s NCAA College Cup in December.
“Our Club has played an active role in using the influence of our teams to attract worldwide interest in bringing more soccer into this community,” Orlando City SC COO Fred Pollastri added. “Our fans, and the fortress they’ve created, are helping us achieve these goals starting with this match.”
This game would mark the fourth USMNT game to be played in Orlando, with the home team holding a 1-2-0 record at the building now known as Camping World Stadium.
This qualifying game would be the first USMNT game played in Orlando since January of 1998, almost 20 years ago, when the U.S. beat Sweden, 1-0, at the Citrus Bowl. Roy Wegerle scored the only goal of the game in just the second minute.
The U.S. has hosted two other international friendlies on the men’s side. The Yanks lost both of the first two by 1-0 score lines. The first of those came at the hands of Australia on June 13, 1992 in front of 17,400 fans — the largest Orlando crowd for a USMNT match. The U.S. also lost 1-0 in Orlando to Russia on Feb. 13, 1993.
Orlando also hosted an Olympic qualifying match back in March of 1980, where the Yanks beat Suriname, 2-1, but the U.S. ultimately boycotted the Olympics that year.
In the last game Orlando hosted vs. Sweden, the U.S. boasted a team with the likes of Brad Friedel, Gregg Berhalter, Eddie Pope, Jeff Agoos, Ernie Stewart, John Harkes, Claudio Reyna, Cobi Jones, Eric Wynalda, Joe-Max Moore, Roy Lassiter, Roy Wegerle and Preki.
Panama currently sits one point above the U.S. in the “Hex” in third place, the final automatic qualifying spot for the World Cup. The U.S. started 0-2 before Jurgen Klinsmann was fired and replaced with Bruce Arena. The U.S. responded with a home win and a road draw in the two matches since Arena took over.
Before the Orlando match, the U.S. will travel south to play Mexico at a still undetermined location in June and then will host Costa Rica at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ, on Friday, Sept. 1. The USMNT will play at Honduras on Sept. 5.
Ticketing info for the Oct. 6 match will be announced by U.S. Soccer at a later date.