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US Men's National Team will return to Utah for June friendly against Costa Rica

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)



SANDY — Welcome back, old friends.

For the first time since 2017, the U.S. Men's National Team will return to Utah this summer. On June 9, Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy will play host to a friendly match between Costa Rica and the USMNT. The match will be broadcast on ESPN2, UniMás and TUDN, with a kickoff time that has to be set.

"It is such an incredible opportunity for the state of Utah to welcome U.S. Soccer to Rio Tinto Stadium. Real Salt Lake has a legacy of U.S. National Team players wearing our crest — from Eddie Pope and Jason Kreis to Nick Rimando and Kyle Beckerman and the new generation of players that have come through the RSL Academy," RSL Interim President John Kimball said in a statement. "To host the match against Costa Rica is a chance to continue that legacy and is a huge credit to the Utah Department of Health for helping to ensure a safe environment for the teams and our wonderful fans. It will surely be a night to remember."

Pertaining to that safe environment, the Men's National Team has initially set a capacity of 10,000 fans for the match, keeping in line with the U.S. Soccer Return to Play Protocols. That number, though, can always change as COVID-19 condition continue to improve across the state and country. Information about ticket sales will be available at a later date.

The USMNT will have its full slate of players available for selection against Costa Rica. That includes those playing in top flight leagues in Europe like Chelsea's Christian Pulisic, RB Leipzig's Tyler Adams, Barcelona's Sergiño Dest and Juventus's Weston McKennie.

Since 2005, the National Team has made a stop in Salt Lake Valley at least once every four years. In that stretch, Utah has hosted three World Cup qualifying matches and a Concacaf Gold Cup match. The National Team last played in Utah in 2017 when it tied Venezuela 1-1 in a friendly. The team has a 4-0-1 record all-time in Utah. Costa Rica was the opponent when the USMNT made its debut in Utah in 2005. That match was played at Rice-Eccles Stadium and was attended by more than 40,000 fans.

While the stakes for the match in June aren't as high as some of the team's previous stops in Utah, there is still some added importance to it. The match in Sandy, combined with the friendly away to Switzerland on May 30 and the Concacaf Nations League Final Four on June 3 and 6, will simulate a match cadence similar to what players will experience during the upcoming World Cup qualifying campaign in September and October. Considering the team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, any added prep is a good thing.

"Costa Rica is a competitive Concacaf team and we are looking forward to this opportunity," USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter said. "Combined with the ability to mimic the cadence of matches we will encounter in September and October, this is an important step in our preparation for the start of World Cup qualifying."

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