ON THE ROAD: DESIRED AWAY MATCH DESTINATIONS

With the the recently announced World Cup Qualifying 4th round games, it got Don Wine, our AO D.C. chapter president thinking about his most desired away match destinations…

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“We love ya, we love ya, we love ya, and where you go we’ll follow, we’ll follow, we’ll follow, cuz we support the U.S., the U.S., the U.S., and that’s the way we like it, we like it, we like it…” That cheer has echoed off the walls of stadiums from DC to Denmark, Seattle to South Africa, Estadio Azteca to Allianz Arena and so many places in the middle. As much as AO members love to support their team when they play near their home cities in the United States, so many live for the thrill of traveling abroad to support their team. Not only is it an incredible feeling to be a part of the away support in an opposing stadium full of atmosphere, but also it’s an excuse to travel to a country or city you may never have had a reason to visit.

Some of my favorite trips to follow the USMNT have been away trips. AO members have sung our songs and expressed our patriotism in cricket stadiums, in rugby stadiums, in makeshift practice facilities on safari reserves. We’ve battled blazing heat, tropical storms and above all, jet lag and the unfamiliar sights and sounds of a new country. We do it because we love our team, and because we all love to travel and see the world. Our favorite item to pack in our suitcase is a passport full of stamps, a visual map of your soccer journey. Away trips make for some incredible sights and unbelievable stories to tell upon your return.

While the USMNT hit the road for about half of their trips each year, there are some away matches that the U.S. haven’t played that would make for quite the road trip if presented the opportunity. There’s also some that occur quite frequently that should be on everyone’s list. Here’s my list of 10 great road trips I either want to take or want to do again.

1. Mexico (CONCACAF) – I’ll put it as simple as I can: seeing a USMNT World Cup qualifier at Estadio Azteca against Mexico should be on everyone’s bucket list. There’s nothing like being in that away support section with 500 American fans who also made the trip. It’s a blast, and even though I went 2 years ago, this trip is still on my list. If it’s not on your list, add it. NOW.

Justin in Mexico City
Justin in Mexico City

2. Japan (AFC) – We’ve seen the USWNT play Japan on several occasions recently, including in the 2011 and 2015 Women’s World Cup finals. Wouldn’t it be cool for a trip to see the USMNT play in Tokyo? The Japanese are known for being incredibly nice fans while being raucous in the stands. A trip to Japan for a friendly has the possibility of being an all-time classic away trip for many Outlaws.

3. England (UEFA) – A match against England in Wembley can bring out incredible numbers. Of course, this match may not happen again because England is scared of playing the U.S. But, we can dream, right? A friendly in London can be one of the highest attended matches for the away travel crowd not just with AO members but with so many American expats living in England and the rest of Europe. Last time was over 7 years ago.

4. Australia (AFC) – I wasn’t mad that the U.S. lost the 2022 World Cup. I was mad that it was to Qatar and not Australia. Australia has long been at or near the top of my list of countries to visit, and a friendly against the Aussies just about anywhere on that country-continent would get me to sell blood to raise money to go. The crowds for soccer in Australia have started to grow larger and more animated, and there’s a ton to see and do there. Hey Sunil, make this happen. Immediately.

5. Cuba (CONCACAF) – while the U.S. government is finally beginning to relax restrictions on travel to the island nation 90 miles to the southwest of Key West, it’s still fairly difficult to travel legally there. However, a friendly or World Cup qualifier in Havana within the next year or two would be the most anticipated AO trip of all time. Unfortunately that won’t happen this time around.

6. Tanzania (CAF) – The only African entry on this list (South Africa just missing out), a match in Dar es Salaam would be so unique, especially given the city’s massive growth (it’s the third fastest growing city in the world). Tanzania is one of Africa’s beautiful treasures, and with Dar es Salaam sitting on the Indian Ocean a short ferry ride away from Zanzibar, maybe we can make it a double dip by playing both Tanzania in Dar es Salaam and then Zanzibar a few days later. Paradise on the mother continent.

7. Panama (CONCACAF) – Panama City is one of the most beautiful places in Central America, probably the most beautiful. It is constantly compared to Miami and that comparison is warranted. Just make sure you take a registered cab…you don’t want to end up in a car that attempted to run over a toll booth operator 4 times. Take my word for it, or find me at the next tailgate to ask me why that’s a bad idea.

8. Brazil (CONMEBOL) – Sure, we just had the World Cup last summer where more than 500 AO members traveled on the trip package and several thousand more joined us in Brazil. But you put a USMNT friendly in Rio and see how fast I book that flight. From Copacabana to the Maracanã, a match in Rio against the Brazilians would be just out of your mind crazy. I’m just hoping that we can qualify for the Olympics and get placed in Rio for a match.

9. New Zealand (Oceania) – I’ve been meaning to pay Frodo a visit in the land of the Hobbits, so I’m waiting for the day the USMNT gets to play a match in New Zealand. Back in 2013, there were scores of fans who deeply considered a trip to New Zealand to cheer for them against Mexico in the World Cup playoff. You don’t think those same fans and more wouldn’t attempt the long trek to see the team we love? It would be a ton of flying for most of us, but in the end it would be the experience of a lifetime.

10. Costa Rica (CONCACAF) – The Saprissa is one of the benchmark terrible stadiums in CONCACAF that everyone must have on their bucket list just like I do. To say the turf is basically concrete painted green makes it sound much softer than it really is. And the atmosphere there makes you shiver even when watching it on TV. If we reach the Hex and that game is played at the Saprissa, I’m there, and I’ll see you in the stands. Though, the last time we played there, the game was played at Estadio Nacional.

AO in Costa Rica
AO in Costa Rica

Now that we got you figuring out how to travel all over the world and you’ve run to the bank to open that savings account to put some pennies away, let’s hear your take. What countries would you think would make for a wild trip to see a U.S. match? What countries have you thinking, “thanks but no thanks?” In any scenario, there will be plenty of opportunities for everyone to take a trip soon, so hopefully I will see you all in the away section at an upcoming match!

———by Donald Wine II, AODC President

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