USMNT planning January training camp in Qatar, host of the 2022 World Cup – sources

Jan 27, 2019; Glendale, AZ, USA; USA head coach Gregg Berhalter against Panama during an international friendly soccer match at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
U.S. men's national team coach Gregg Berhalter wants to take his team to Qatar, host of the 2022 World Cup, early next year. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today)

The United States men’s national team is planning to hold its next January training camp in Qatar, the host nation for the the 2022 FIFA World Cup, multiple sources told Yahoo Sports.

No agreement has been finalized, but U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter traveled to the middle eastern country after this month’s friendly matches against Mexico and Uruguay, a U.S. Soccer spokesman confirmed.

If it happens, the extended trip would help familiarize players and staff with Qatar — its weather, customs, food and people, in addition to its hotels and training sites — well in advance of the next World Cup, which the U.S. will attempt to qualify for beginning next September. The Americans did not make the cut for the 2018 tournament in Russia, breaking a string of seven consecutive World Cup appearances dating to 1990.

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The U.S. is hoping to face a to-be-determined international opponent during its stay in Qatar, which is about the size of Connecticut, before returning to the United States for a domestic friendly. The Americans would also have the opportunity to play closed-door scrimmages against top-level clubs, as several German Bundesliga sides train in Qatar and the nearby United Arab Emirates during that league’s winter break.

The national team’s annual January camp has long been staged in Southern California. It typically features MLS players almost exclusively, as most of the squad’s European- and Mexican-based members are still in season with their clubs. Berhalter moved the 2019 camp, his first after being hired last December, from U.S. Soccer’s facility in greater Los Angeles 120 miles south to the Olympic training center in Chula Vista.

It’s not unusual for the U.S. team to visit World Cup host nations before the main event itself. The Americans played a pair of friendly matches in Germany in 2006 before the World Cup there that summer. They traveled to South Africa in 2007, more than two years before the 2010 tourney in that country, then returned for the 2009 Confederations Cup.

And under then-coach Jurgen Klinsmann, the USMNT spent part of its 2014 January camp at Brazilian club Sao Paulo FC’s sprawling complex, which would also serve as its training base during the World Cup later that year.

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