Ghana was the USSF’s first choice, but scheduling issues on the Black Stars’ end prevented an agreement. Ghana has a World Cup qualifier eight days earlier against Uganda, and while teams are allowed to play both a qualifier and friendly inside the same nine-day FIFA window, the sport’s governing body prevents the friendly from taking place more than a five-hour flight and two time zones away because of the burden on players and their clubs.
In this case, FIFA declined Ghana’s request for a waiver.
Aside from the New Zealand match, the Americans will play Cuba on Oct. 7 in Havana. New Zealand will face Mexico on Oct. 8 in Nashville.
While CONCACAF does not have any World Cup qualifiers in October — the semifinal round concludes in September and the final round begins in November — most countries around the world do have them. Consequently, the pool of potential opponents for the United States and other CONCACAF nations is small.
The U.S. men’s team has played more times at RFK than any other home stadium (23). Its previous appearance was in September 2015 for a 2-1 friendly victory against Peru.
With this fall’s visit coming in a FIFA window (Oct. 3-11), Coach Jurgen Klinsmann will have the option of summoning top players from leagues in Europe and Mexico, as well as MLS. However, MLS scheduled four matches during or immediately after the FIFA window — Colorado at Houston on Oct. 8, Houston at Seattle on Oct. 12, Columbus at Chicago on Oct. 13 and San Jose at Colorado on Oct. 13.
Often, for friendlies that conflict with league matches, Klinsmann and MLS clubs compromise on whether a player is selected. However, the United States is expected to advance to the final round of World Cup qualifiers, which would begin four weeks later. If the semifinal round finishes with the favorites winning their groups, the Americans would open the hexagonal at home on or around Nov. 11 against Mexico, presumably in Columbus, where the teams have clashed in qualifiers every four years since 2001 (all 2-0 U.S. victories).
New Zealand, ranked No. 93 by FIFA, last qualified for the World Cup in 2010 and, against long odds, drew all three group matches in South Africa. Ahead of the 2014 tournament, the All Whites won the Oceania championship but lost to Mexico in a two-leg qualifying playoff. Their 2018 quest will resume in November with a pair of third-round matches against New Caledonia.
Next summer, as OFC Nations Cup champions, the All Whites will participate in the FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia.
Since 2014, the team has been guided by Englishman Anthony Hudson, who began his coaching career in 2008 with Real Maryland, a third-tier club based in Rockville.