For just the second time in 69 years, the United States men’s soccer team is set to play against the Cuba national team in Havana on Friday, October 7. ESPN will broadcast the game and a game time is yet to be determined.
This game will come in between a rather crucial set of World Cup Qualifiers. The USMNT is due to play qualifying games against Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago in September. And the top two among those teams, in addition to Guatemala, will advance to the final stage of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying set to start in November. The United States haven’t yet clinched a spot to “the Hex” but are favored to advance.
Talking about the upcoming game in Cuba, USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann said, “We are happy to have the chance to bring our team to Cuba. In addition to good competition, we are always looking for our group to have different experiences, and this is a unique opportunity.” Last month, the United States played a friendly in Puerto Rico for the first time ever, defeating Puerto Rico 3-1.
The USMNT last played in Cuba in a World Cup Qualifying game in 2008 but this is the first friendly the two teams have had in Cuba and thus the first time the two nations voluntarily scheduled to play a game in Cuba since Fidel Castro took over the country in 1959.
United States and Cuba relations have gotten more and more friendly in the past two years after pieces of the five decade long embargo have been lifted and one way to promote improved relations with the communist nation has been through sport. Last July, the New York Cosmos defeated the Cuba national team 4-1 in Havana. In March, the Tampa Bay Rays played against the Cuba national baseball team with U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuba President Raul Castro in attendance. ESPN was on hand to cover the baseball game and the network will also broadcast the Cuba vs. U.S. soccer game along with Univision.