The meaning of upcoming friendlies 

February, 8, 2012

Last week's news that the U.S. will travel to Toronto for a June 3 match against Canada marked the first of three such announcements on the Yanks' final pre-World Cup qualifying schedule. It also provided a bit of insight into coach Jurgen Klinsmann's approach to the tune-ups.

The tilt against the Canucks is the Americans' last before hosting tiny Antigua and Barbuda (pop. 90,000) at a site to be determined in the first competitive game of the Klinsmann era (June 8). The word is that the Yanks will host Scotland in an East Coast city on May 26 or 27, and the Washington Post is reporting that they will take on Brazil at FedEx Field, just outside Washington D.C., on May 30.

That docket is quite different from the one the U.S. put together four years ago before embarking on the road to South Africa. In 2008, before their qualifying opener against Barbados, the Americans played a murderers row of friendlies: at England, at Spain, and in New Jersey against Argentina.

The Americans dropped both road games and eked out a scoreless draw against the Albiceleste thanks to otherworldly goalkeeping by Tim Howard. But the experience proved invaluable. Some Yanks were reportedly quaking in their boots during pre-game handshakes before the 2-0 loss at Wembley Stadium.; two years later, a supremely confident U.S. team tied England in the World Cup opener and went on to take the group ahead of the Three Lions.

The experience this time around will be different.

Luke Cyphers is a former senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.
Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine. He has covered American and international soccer since 2002.