The U.S. men's national soccer team is coming to Allianz Field for FIFA World Cup qualifying — right in the middle of a Minnesota winter.
On Wednesday, the team announced plans to play Honduras in St. Paul on Feb. 2. But no matter the weather that day, the game won't be played on the frozen tundra.
Allianz Field's playing surface will be warmed to 55 or 60 degrees — even if spectators won't be — by heating elements buried 10 inches underground.
It's a cold-weather site for a game against a warm-weather opponent. The U.S. team also will play in Columbus, Ohio, against El Salvador on Jan. 27 and against Canada in Hamilton, Ontario, between those two home games.
The average high temperature on Feb. 2 in this northern clime — where the NFL's Vikings and Packers once were known to play on that "frozen tundra" — the past six years is 28.
"It could be anything," Allianz Field head groundskeeper Ryan Moy said.
The U.S. team is second behind Canada in CONCACAF qualifier standings — a 4-1-3 record for 15 points — with six games remaining. The top three teams in their eight-team group earn automatic qualification for the World Cup in Qatar starting in November. Honduras currently is eighth and last in the group.
Both U.S. home games will be played in intimate, soccer-specific stadiums. Home to Minnesota United, Allianz Field's capacity is 19,400, Columbus' new Lower.com's capacity is 20,371.
USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter in a statement called his team's previous experiences in Columbus and St. Paul "fantastic" — and convincing in the decision to play World Cup qualifiers there, no matter the month or weather.
"Great stadiums and great atmosphere provide a huge advantage to our team," he said.
The Feb. 2 game will be televised by FS1 and Univision networks. Kickoff time will be announced later for the Wednesday night game. U.S. Soccer again will use a weighted random draw for ticket sales that are expected to be well outnumbered by demand.
The U.S. women's national team has played twice at Allianz, including last month's farewell to retiring Carli Lloyd in a friendly against South Korea.
The men's team has played at Allianz Field once, in a 4-0 CONCACAF Gold Cup victory over Guyana in 2019.
But that was in June, in a Minnesota summer.
Moy and his grounds crew started to let the grass field go dormant after Sunday's season-ending playoff loss at Portland.
It will be warmed from frozen — unless it's an unusually warm winter — starting in early January, two degrees every other day until it reaches at least 55. That's not enough to melt on its own a significant snowfall near or on game day.
The field then will remain heated until the Loons' home opener on March 5 against Nashville.
Moy's crew will use snow tarps, rain tarps, grow tarps and large tractor "grow lights" set on wheels to awaken the field for one midwinter game.
Moy researched weather data for Feb. 2 the past six years: The 2016 high was 30. It was 17 in 2017, 12 in 2018, 39 in 2019, 46 in 2020 and 24 in 2021.
He consulted with the Vikings' grass practice-fields keeper and colleagues in Columbus and Colorado, among others.
None of his work, though, will keep spectators warm.
"But I wouldn't be surprised if people in the supporters' section live it up, playing to the pageantry," Moy said. "Who knows what warm costumes they might find?"
Minnesota United's Twitter account offered this suggestion when the date was announced by US Soccer and the club on Wednesday:
"Long underwear & hot toddies, friends," it tweeted.
Loons, Timbers fined
The MLS Disciplinary Committee fined both Minnesota United and Portland as well as coaches and players for violating its "Mass Confrontation Policy."
Both clubs have been fined an undisclosed amount because they violated the policy for a second time this season, the league announced Wednesday.
Portland coach Giovanni Savarese and Loons coach Adrian Heath were fined. So, too, were Loons players Ozzie Alonso and Franco Fragapane for their actions inciting and/or escalating a mass confrontation.