BLAINE (FOX 9) - While Team USA on the women's side in soccer battles for World Cup glory, the U.S. men's national team is battling to keep eyes interested.
The U.S. men are looking to regain worldwide respect and national interest after missing the World Cup back in 2018. The Americans lost to Trinidad and Tobago 2-1 in October 2017, which sealed that they wouldn't be a part of the biggest event in soccer for the first time since 1986.
Team USA held a training session Monday at the National Sports Center in Blaine. Tuesday, the Americans will get their first look at Minnesota's new home for soccer, Allianz Field. They host Guyana to open the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Team USA is looking for its seventh Gold Cup title, and maybe more importantly, to start the road back to the 2022 World Cup.
"It's pretty simple. In order to get people to care about the U.S. men's national team again, they have to win. In America, we love teams that win. We love teams that compete," said Stuart Holden, former midfielder for the U.S. men's national team and current Fox Sports soccer analyst.
While serving as preparation for the next World Cup, it's also a chance for Team USA to make a statement. It's been a struggle of late for the Americans. They're 3-2-1 on their 2019 season, but have suffered consecutive shutout losses in friendlies to Venezuela (3-0) and Jamaica (1-0).
Team USA has scored seven goals in six games.
"Tomorrow night in Minneapolis-St. Paul, it's a huge night for Gregg Berhalter and his team because the last couple games haven't gone well," Holden said. "It's a chance to make a statement for this team. A statement of what to expect over the course of this tournament. Is this team going to compete? Can this team compete for a Gold Cup title? The last two games against Venezuela and Jamaica, not been good is putting it nicely. In order to turn that around and get it back to optimism, to get people excited about the future of this program and getting this team back to a World Cup in 2022, that starts tomorrow night in a huge game."
It wasn't that long ago that Team USA was respectable, if not competitive, in international competition. The Americans got the World Cup in 2014 and beat Ghana, tied Portugal and lost to Germany 1-0. They advanced to the knockout stage on goal differential before falling to Belgium 2-1 in the round of 16. It was the first time Team USA had gotten to the knockout round of the World Cup in consecutive appearances.
In 2010, the Americans played to a 1-1 draw against England and a 2-2 draw against Slovenia. They beat Algeria 1-0 to advance. The Americans fell to Ghana 2-1 in the round of 16.
Team USA has had success in the Gold Cup. They won it in 2017 and 2013, and 10 current players on the roster have experience in the tournament. The Americans also have the most wins in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, with a 56-8-9 all-time record. They're 32-1-4 in the group stage and made the semifinals in 13 of the last 14 tournaments.
Tuesday will mark the first time Team USA players to get a flavor of Allianz Field. If they're well-received, it could lead to bigger things for the new home of Minnesota United.
The Loons themselves are on the road Tuesday, facing Houston Dynamo.
For Minnesota soccer fans, it's the best chance to see stars like forward Jozy Altidore and midfielder Michael Bradley.
"Seeing the United States men's national team there and seeing American fans in the crowd and what the atmosphere is going to be like. For the U.S. team, when they're looking at venues to play big, important matches as you look towards 2022, that's open for discussion," Holden said. "If Minnesota puts on a good showing on June 18, then it'll be under consideration to get big, meaningful games going forward."