The US National Team Returns to Florida
After almost three years without a senior National Team match being held in Florida, the USSF has announced the February 24th friendly versus El Salvador will be held at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium. In the past three years, the USMNT has held numerous training sessions in the state and the US Youth National Teams have played over a dozen matches including Olympic qualifiers in Florida.
However, since the 2007 friendly versus Ecuador in Tampa, the USMNT has not been seen in live game action in the state.
Going through the historical record, the 2006-2010 time period has seen the fewest appearances by the full USMNT in the modern era of American soccer, which we will date from the demise of the original NASL in 1984.
Full USMNT internationals held in Florida:
1986-1990 : 9
1991-1995 : 7
2001-2005 : 6
Obviously, as much of the country has caught soccer fever thanks to the growth of the domestic professional game and the increased exposure of European and Mexican football on TV, Florida has become less of a niche soccer market. Nonetheless, many fans in the nation’s fourth most populated state have felt detached from the National Team since their last match here in 2007.
The decision to hold this friendly in Tampa instead of Los Angeles, Miami or Washington where a more ethnic Salvadoran crowd could have helped fill the ground is also further proof that the USSF is reaching out to USMNT fans in a way they did not before. It is also good for Florida and the Southeast, as Tampa is easily accessible by road.