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Soccer at Allianz Field… in February?

Welcome to the Cold and Frozen North!

Anthony Souffle - Star Tribune

Back in November, Minnesota United announced that Allianz Field in Saint Paul was selected to host a critical World Cup Qualifying match against Honduras as the USMNT aims to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The match is scheduled to be played on February 2nd and I have been informed that it tends to be cold in Minnesota that time of year.

Supporters of MNUFC are particularly aware of this and have experienced matches in relatively frigid temperatures before. For those who endured MNUFC’s inaugural MLS home match against Atlanta United on March 12th, 2017, they witnessed the coldest match in MLS history with an official temperature of 19°F at kickoff. This record was nearly broken just 12 months later when MNUFC again hosted Atlanta United on March 31st, 2018, where the temperature at kickoff clocked in at 22°F.

Since that record-breaking temperature in 2017, it has been our friends in Colorado who have experienced their fair-share of freezing temperatures at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City. In a CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) match on February 20th, 2018, the Colorado Rapids hosted Toronto FC in what is questionably the coldest professional soccer match ever played, registering a bone-chilling 3°F at kickoff with a -16°F wind chill. It was again at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park where the record for coldest match in MLS history was broken on March 2nd, 2019, when the Colorado Rapids and Portland Timbers kicked off to a temperature of 18°F. This broke the previous record set at TCF Bank Stadium by a single degree.

While there is no specific guidance by FIFA or CONCACAF on extreme cold, the FIFPRO World Players’ Union recommends that training and matches be cancelled and rescheduled when the air temperature is less than -15°C (5°F) and when the wind chill temperature is less than -27°C (-17°F). This recommendation is essentially what the Colorado Rapids and Toronto FC experienced during that CCL match in 2018.

So what temperature can we expect at Allianz Field when the USMNT hosts Honduras on February 2nd? Below is a histogram that illustrates the minimum temperature on February 2nd in Minneapolis-St. Paul since 1900, containing a total of 122 occurrences. With data provided by the Minnesota DNR, the daily minimum temperature was used as it is more representative of a 6:30 PM CT kickoff than the daily maximum temperature.

The median minimum temperature on February 2nd over this timeframe was 5°F with a standard deviation of 15°F. At which point must the air temperature be less than for FIFPRO to recommend that a match be postponed or cancelled? Also 5°F.

However, since there is no specific guidance by FIFA or CONCACAF, the decision will be left up to the referee crew to determine if the game will go on. CONCACAF spokesman Nicholas Noble confirmed this recently, indicating that “As is standard practice for all matches, per the laws of the game the referee will determine if the field is playable”.

Regardless of the temperature, USMNT fans will dress accordingly to embrace the experience that will be the first ever World Cup Qualifying match in Minnesota at Allianz Field. They’ll do so to support the USMNT’s qualification journey to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, where the significance cannot be overstated given recent historical context.

So will it be cold? Of course. Will we welcome the USMNT to the Cold and Frozen North with Midwest hospitality? You betcha. Will they grab 3 points? I say dress warm, cheer loud, and brrr-ing on the cold because we’re about to find out.