NATAL, Brazil – This beach town in the northeast part of the country and host to the United States' World Cup opener against Ghana on Monday, is known as "the City of the Sun."
The past two days, however, have seen non-stop rain, torrential at times, causing local evacuations, upsetting team training schedules, cancelling fan activities and leaving everyone wondering about the state of the playing surface at the new Dunas Arena.
More rain is predicted for both Sunday and Monday, with game day potentially seeing thunderstorms and a full deluge. Both are rare for this time of the year.
Sitting just 400 miles from the equator, Natal is known for its abundance of sun. While parts of Brazil are accustomed to a heavy wet season, Natal receives on average just six inches of rain in June, two-thirds of what falls, on average, in Miami during the month.
While complete official numbers were not yet available for Friday and Saturday, very heavy rain began falling Friday during a game between Mexico and Cameroon and did not let up until Saturday morning.
Accuweather.com says 73 millimeters, or nearly three inches fell on Saturday alone. Streets were flooded and the local news reports detailed a small landslide and the evacuation of about 50 homes and one apartment building in the city of just under one million residents.
The weather played a role in the U.S. cancelling a light run upon arriving Friday night designed to shake off tightness from the four-hour flight from Sao Paulo where its training base is set up. That’s a minor inconvenience compared to the X-factor of what might be anything from a wet field to playing in complete slop Monday.
Dunas Arena and its playing surface are new, built expressly for the World Cup, so no one knows whether its playing surface and drainage system will continue to stand up to these conditions.
The United States and Ghana are scheduled to play at 7 p.m. local time, 6 p.m. ET.