The US National Arena Soccer Team announced three more games today on their road to get ready for October’s WMF World Cup in Tunisia.
The USNAST will take on El Salvador on August 9 at Citizens Business Bank Arena and then will face Brazil on August 11 at CenturyLink Arena in Boise, Idaho and on August 12 at the Maverik Center in West Valley City, Utah.
“The crowds in here have always been great in supporting the United States team whenever they come to Ontario,” said Bernie Lilavois, the General Manager of the US team, and also the president of the Ontario Fury. “We expect that the fans in Southern California will come out and support this game, especially with the addition of El Salvador, who provided a great challenge to the US during the last World Cup.”
While Ontario is becoming the de facto home of the USNAST, the selection of Boise and Salt Lake City are interesting developments. The Maverik Center, formerly known as The E Center last hosted arena soccer in 2001, while the good people of Boise have never had the opportunity to witness arena soccer at CenturyLink Arena, which was known as the Bank of America Centre when it opened in 1997.
“These exhibitions are a great opportunity to test markets, and to meet and/or work with potential owners for MASL expansion,” said MASL Vice President of Business Development Kevin Milliken.
The US-Brazil rivalry is second only to US-Mexico in arena soccer, but the August 9 game will mark only the second time the US has faced El Salvador. The two teams met on March 24, 2015 in group play of the 2015 WMF World Cup, with the Americans breezing to a 9-3 win, before advancing to defeat Mexico in the Final. El Salvador is coached by Luis Orellana, who played for the Sacramento Knights in the CISL.
“This was an exciting opportunity to bring some top-tier athletes to Boise and give Idaho sports fans a taste of something new,” said Eric Trapp, General Manager of CenturyLink Arena. “We expect it to be a great game, and it may help us determine if bringing an indoor soccer team to Idaho is a good prospect for the future.”
“We are proud to bring some of the best players in North America to Boise to showcase the game of Arena Soccer as we prepare for the World Cup,” said Lilavois. “We hope that fans will come out and check out what arena soccer is all about, as we prepare to defend our World Cup title.”
While the teams haven’t announced their rosters yet, two capped American players have ties to Idaho. Evan McNeley and Brian Farber have done soccer camps in Sandpoint, about 500 miles north of Boise, for years, and in April, McNeley was named coach of the Sandpoint High School soccer team.
“Bringing indoor soccer to the state of Idaho is paramount to the success of soccer in our country,” said McNeley. “We must reach out to as many youth players as possible to make this great sport thrive at the highest level. No matter where you grow up you can achieve anything you put your mind to.”
Fans in West Valley City, a nearby suburb of Salt Lake City, will finally be able to get another arena soccer fix. The Utah Freezz played three World Indoor Soccer League seasons from 1999-2001 at the Maverick Center, which hosted Winter Olympic hockey in 2002 . The team was competitive on the field and their games were solidly attended, but after sharing a staff for two years with the then-IHL Utah Grizzlies, the Freezz were largely left in the wilderness their third year with a skeleton staff and little oversight.
Jared Youngman, who was a ticket sales executive for the Freezz, has since risen to Vice President of the Grizzlies, who are now in the ECHL. “When I heard about the game coming it brought back a lot of memories,” he said. “Indoor soccer is so awesome to watch and it’s so fast paced. Since 2001 the popularity of soccer has grown so much here with the addition of Real Salt Lake. I’d love to see the arena packed on August 12.”
As for the USNAST, Lilavois and Head Coach Phil Salvagio still have a long way to go to make their final determinations for the October 6-15 WMF World Cup. Lilavois thinks the roster will come into focus in early September. “The roster is definitely not set at this point and, for this upcoming three-game tour in California, Idaho and Utah we will get a look at about 10 new players who haven’t played with the USNAST before, so we can evaluate them,” said Lilavois.
Lilavois will leave no stone unturned for Tunisia. Plans are under way for more exhibition games in late August and early September as well as player combines.
Tickets are now on sale for all three games and more information is available on the US team’s new website at USNAST.com.