Gregg Berhalter probably will be wearing something warmer than just a sweater come the January and February WCQs. (Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

In the dead of winter, the weather can get quite gnarly in Minnesota.

Snow is part of the landscape and temperatures usually remain below freezing and can dip under zero degrees Fahrenheit.

With that in mind, the U.S. men’s national team is hosting Honduras in a World Cup qualifier at Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minn. on Nov. 2. That game is only days after two matches that are expected to be played in frigid conditions. The Americans welcome El Salvador in a WCQ in Columbus, Ohio on Jan. 27, before traveling north to meet Canada in another Concacaf Octagonal on Jan. 30.

USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter, who obviously has a say in where his team will host qualifiers, Friday explained his reasoning for putting both home matches in cold weather conditions.

The USA’s decision was put off until Canada decided to host its game in Hamilton, Ontario.

“So we had to be ready to react,” said Berhalter, who added that the team was ready to play in pair of west coast venues if the Canadians chose Vancouver for its border clash.

“Some of the criteria is we’re looking for is minimizing travel, and a pro U.S. crowd,” Berhalter said. “So now you start thinking about stadiums that you can minimize travel have a pro us crowd. You guys know El Salvador.”

Yes we do. It’s much warmer and humid in that Central American country; usually the time of year doesn’t matter.

Berhalter said the Eastern seaboard was not a factor. For example, the Washington, D.C. area has a sizable El Salvadoran population. New York is too much of a melting pot and we all remember how the USMNT was burned badly by Costa Rica in a devastating 2-0 defeat that cost the team a berth at Russia 2018. Florida venues can’t be used because the climate is too close to Central America’s.

“We want a pro U.S. crowd,” Berhalter said. “You guys have seen what a pro U.S. crowd does for the boys, does for the for those for the atmosphere. So, now we start having we started having to weigh the risk of that of the weather, extreme weather. We know a large portion of our guys are playing in Europe. They’re playing in cold weather right now. They’re coming back to cold weather. They should be able to adapt pretty nicely.”

Berhalter said he knew the Columbus pitch at the new Lower.com Field, which opened this year, was going to be good.

“Some other venues weren’t able to get the field up to standards to play in the winter, so we had to exclude them,” he added. “Minnesota and Columbus popped out from a travel at field standpoint and weather. If it’s tough for us. We have guys playing in in Europe in cold weather. What’s it going to be like for Honduras, who’s coming from Honduras midweek, coming from 85-90 degree temperatures to go to Minnesota. What’s it going to be like for them?”

The USMNT has been on the other side of the equation many times, especially in Central America, where the Americans have played in the middle of a jungle, in front of hostile crowds and supporters who tried nefarious ways to keep the USA team up all night at its hotel a night before a game.

Berhalter has experienced it when he played in qualifiers for the team.

“In the qualifiers, it’s about winning games and about qualifying. We think this is going to give us a good opportunity to do that.”

But there is a flip side to that.

What if it gets very cold and freezes the field.? And then add some snow during the game (the Snow Clasico vs. Costa Rica in Commerce City, Colo. in 2013), won’t that affect the USA as well?

“What we’re being told is that the field is not going to be an issue,” Berhalter said. “The field is going to be soft; it’s going to be smooth. That was the first question we were asking, which is important. It could be in a case where we get severe snow during the game, which could affect it, for sure.”

The USMNT also researched the average snowfall for both cities in January and February.

“There’s no exact science for this,” he said. “We did our best possible work to make a good decision on where we should play in terms of the cold. We’ll be fine. We’ll be able to deal with the cold weather. It is what it is, even if it gets to temperatures like that, we’ll be able to perform. The field was a concern but again, we think that it should be alright.”