The U.S.-Ecuador match, which will also be televised live on ESPN and Telemundo, will serve as an important World Cup qualifying tune-up for both teams. The U.S. has a pair of qualifiers four days apart later in the month - June 16 at Jamaica and June 20 vs. Trinidad & Tobago at Foxboro, Mass. - while Ecuador will be coming off of a June 3 qualifier at Peru and looking ahead to a huge Aug. 15 match at home vs. group leader Argentina. Ecuador is expected to bring to Columbus the same squad that takes on Peru four days earlier.
Ecuador has been making a name for itself recently, in South American qualifying for the 2002 World Cup. On March 28, it stunned the soccer world by defeating Brazil, 1-0, which it followed up by topping second-place Paraguay 2-1 on April 24. Ecuador is currently third in South American qualifying, in which the top four teams automatically qualify for the World Cup.
The U.S. currently leads the final stage of CONCACAF qualifying with a 3-0-0 record, while Ecuador sits third in South American (CONMEBOL) qualifying with a 7-4-1 record and 22 points with six games remaining. The top four teams in South American qualifying will automatically qualify for the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan and the fifth-place finisher in South America will be play a two-game, aggregate-goals playoff against the winner of the Oceania confederation for a berth in the World Cup Finals.
The match against Ecuador will be U.S. Soccer's fourth visit to Crew Stadium in a seven-month span and the fifth time that a senior men's or women's national team match has been played there since the stadium opened. The U.S. men played two straight World Cup qualifiers at Crew Stadium on Oct. 11, 2000 (0-0 tie vs. Costa Rica before 24,430) and Feb. 28, 2001 (2-0 win over Mexico before 24,624), sandwiched around the U.S. Women's Glory Tour kickoff on Nov. 11, 2000. The U.S. women played the first senior national team game at Crew Stadium on Oct. 3, 1999, as part of the opening doubleheader of the 1999 Nike U.S. Women's Cup.
Columbus Crew Stadium, the home of the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer, opened on May 15, 1999 and has already been the site of such marquee events as the 2000 MLS All-Star Game, which was attended by a standing-room-only crowd of 23,495, and it will play host later this year to both MLS Cup 2001 and the 2001 NCAA Men's College Cup.