The unique match-up marks the first time the U.S. has played Iran on domestic soil and serves as a rematch of the USA's disheartening 2-1 loss to Iran in their second game of the first round of the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France. That politically-charged match, for which both teams were later given the FIFA Fair Play Award, was the only time the two countries have met in international competition. Iran benefitted from goals by Hamid Estili (40th minute) and Mehdi Mahdavikia (84th) before U.S. forward Brian McBride put the Yanks on the board with a diving header in the 87th minute.
"When we were originally matched up against Iran in the World Cup, it garnered a lot of attention, most of which was centered around political tension," said U.S. Soccer Secretary General Hank Stein-brecher. "But those two teams showed their level of class before and even during that game. Now people can look at this game for what it actually represents, simply the spirit of competition."
Following World Cup '98, new U.S. Head Coach Bruce Arena has guided the Americans to a 7- 3-4 record, including 7-3-2 in 1999, after taking over the program in October of that year.
The U.S. squad will likely be made up of several key European-based players like goalkeeper Kasey Keller (Rayo Vallecano--Spanish First Division), midfielder and captain Claudio Reyna (Glasgow Rangers--Scottish Premiership) and young midfielder John O'Brien (Ajax Amsterdam--Dutch First Division), as well as a mix of top domestic players.
Iran features celebrated forward Ali Daei, who starred for his country in the most recent World Cup and currently plays alongside U.S. National Team midfielder Tony Sanneh of the German First Division. Daei led the club in scoring in 1999 with two goals in seven games, in which Iran finished 2-1- 4. The Iranian squad also includes forward Khodada Azizi, the 1996 Asian Player of the Year, and goalkeeper/captain Abedzadeh Ahmad.
Tickets, which are priced at $50 (premier), $35 (preferred), $30 (reserved) and $25 (general admission) for adults, go on sale today and are available by calling TicketMaster at (213) 480-3232 or the Los Angeles Galaxy at 877-3GALAXY. Youth reserved tickets are just $22, as are all tickets purchased in groups of 20 or more.
The U.S. team will use the match to help train for The Football Confederation's Gold Cup, which will take place in three different cities (Miami, Los Angeles and San Diego) from February 17-27, 2000. Team USA, which was placed in Group B, is scheduled to meet Haiti on Feb. 12 and Peru on Feb. 16 at the Orange Bowl in Miami in the opening round of the regional championship. The top two teams in each of the four groups will advance to the tournament quarterfinals.