American soccer players will amass airline miles – all in preparation for unprecedented journeys.
Jetsetter like never before, the number 20 of the USA will play on Sunday in St. Gallen in an exhibition against Switzerland on the 13th. The final of the Nations League against Mexico or Costa Rica will follow on June 6th in Denver, followed by a friendly against Costa Rica on June 9th in Sandy, Utah.
US coach Gregg Berhalter designed the schedule to prepare players for the grueling, compact World Cup qualifying plan, which starts in September and features three games in FIFA game windows for two games.
“This should definitely help us in different situations in all types of weather and of course with lots of trips and different time zones,” said striker Gio Reyna on Saturday. “I think we’re all trying to take in as much of the staff here as possible for the tips that will help us reduce jet lag as much as possible.”
After playing with their clubs on August 28-29, the Americans living in Europe will travel to the US to meet up with their Major League Soccer brothers and then play their first qualifying match on September 2nd, most likely in Trinidad and Tobago. This is followed by a home game on September 5th, probably against Canada, and an away game on September 8th in Honduras.
They will return to Europe for club matches from September 11-12, then repeat the transatlantic trip for three qualifying matches from October 7-13 and again for two more from November 12-16.
“It’s really tough,” said striker Brendan Aaronson after his first season in Europe with Red Bull Salzburg. “It’s tough on the body because you travel what, eight hours back to the United States on a flight and then you have to get off a flight and get ready for a game in three days.”
The players trained this week in Crans-Montana in the Alps at an altitude of 5,000 feet in preparation for the game in mile-high Denver, their first competitive game in 1 1/2 years and a prospect of qualifying in Mexico City on March 24th.
“You don’t have much time to recover,” said defender DeAndre Yedlin, who is the oldest player in the squad with 62 appearances and could play his first international since December 2019.
Players are given FlyKitt supplements to help relieve the stress of playing eight time zones in a short amount of time.
“We give them the right nutrition. We talk to them about the right rest they need and the hydration they need,” said Berhalter.
Aaronson was one of nine Americans to have won 12 trophies in Europe this season, culminating on Saturday when Chelsea midfielder Christian Pulisic became the first American to win a Champions League final. Pulisic’s team beat Manchester City, where US goalkeeper Zack Steffen serves as a substitute.
Aaronson won the Austrian Bundesliga and the Austrian Cup, Steffen became the first American to win a Premier League medal and also won the League Cup.
Sergiño Dest won the Copa del Rey with Barcelona, Weston McKennie won the Coppa Italia with Juventus, Gio Reyna won the German Cup with Borussia Dortmund and Mark McKenzie won the Belgian Cup with Genk.
Tim Weah was with Little Ligue 1 champion, Ethan Horvath with Club Brugge Belgian first division and Jordan Siebatcheu with Young Boys Swiss Super League.
“Now it’s all about getting into the Nations League and winning a trophy with this group of guys,” said Aaronson.
Schalke striker Matthew Hoppe and 17-year-old Bayern Munich young defender Justin Che are on the squad on Sunday and could make their debuts.
Midfielder Julian Green could make his first appearance since November 2018.
Switzerland is preparing for the European Championship, where they will open the group stage against Wales on June 12 and also play preliminary round matches against Italy and Turkey.
“We have to meet our expectations somehow,” said defender Reggie Cannon. “There’s a lot of potential in this group at the end of the day. They haven’t had a lot of time to work together.”
Remarks: Yedlin said he joined Landon Donovan in the San Diego Loyal ownership group of the second-rate United Soccer League’s USL championship after seeing the team play the LA Galaxy II over an alleged ethnic slur against one of them San Diego’s players had lost and another to the Phoenix Rising for allegedly homophobic slander directed against another of the San Diego players. “It really opened my eyes that there is a professional club out here that may be giving up a playoff spot to raise awareness of these issues which I think are bigger than the sport,” said Yedlin. “And I think they are a great example for the rest of the world, not just the US.”