TAMPA — After failing to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986, the U.S. men's soccer team has its sights set on 2022. The process of returning to the world stage continues with a six-match exhibition series against some of the best teams in the world.
The United States will play the third match in the series against Colombia on Oct. 11 at Raymond James Stadium. It will be the seventh time the team has played in Tampa and the first for Colombia.
"It's very important for our young players, and for all of our player pool, to compete at the highest level," U.S. interim coach Dave Sarachan said at a news conference Thursday to promote the match. "Colombia is certainly a high-quality opponent who will challenge us. And I have a long history in Tampa, which I think is a terrific soccer town."
Less than a month away! See you soon, Tampa. https://t.co/GiGsP4qxL9— U.S. Soccer MNT (@ussoccer_mnt) September 13, 2018
Sarachan, 64, played for the Rochester Lancers in the old NASL and the Rowdies were one of his opponents. He was an assistant coach with MLS's D.C. United in the late 1990s and coached against the now-defunct Tampa Bay Mutiny.
Sarachan — who took over as U.S. coach after Bruce Arena resigned in October 2017 following the Americans' failure to qualify for this year's World Cup — said he wouldn't make wholesale changes to the roster for the exhibition matches. One player who was missing from Tuesday's 1-0 win over Mexico in Nashville was injured forward Christian Pulisic. Pulisic, who plays for Borussia Dortmund in Germany's Bundesliga, could return next month, though he hasn't played much for the United States in the past year.
"I have a good idea what the core is going to be, and now we just need to round it out," Sarachan said.
Colombia is ranked No. 14 in the world. In six previous matches in Tampa, the United States is 4-1-1.
The Mexico match drew a crowd of 40,194. That is an ambitious number for Tampa, but Mayor Bob Buckhorn said at the news conference he believes Colombia could draw many fans.
"We have a very, very significant Colombian population in the Tampa Bay area. I can tell you that they are excited about this. You will see Colombians from all over the state of Florida come to our area to watch their team lose to the Americans," Buckhorn joked.
After the Colombia match, the United States will face Peru on Oct. 16 in Hartford, Conn.; England on Nov. 15 in London, and Italy on Nov. 20 at a venue to be named.
Tickets are available at ussoccer.com and by calling toll-free 1-800-745-3000.