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USMNT to play Ecuador at Orlando City Stadium

Fans cheer before the start of the U.S. Soccer World Cup qualifier match against Panama at Orlando City Stadium on Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel)

The U.S. men’s national team will play a friendly against Ecuador in Orlando City Stadium on March 21, marking the first game for the USMNT in Orlando since 2017. 

The match is set to be broadcast on ESPN2 and Univision Networks, with pregame coverage starting at 7:30 p.m. and tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. ET Feb. 13 at ussoccer.com. Orlando City Stadium will not be selling any tickets until the day of the match.

It could be a special opportunity for new Orlando City midfielder Jhegson Sebastián “Sebas” Méndez, who has been capped five times for Ecuador’s men’s national team. He made his debut for his national team on Sept. 12 in a 2-0 win over Guatemala and most recently played in a win over Panama on Nov. 21. He played 45 minutes in that match. 

He and the Lions recently wrapped up two weeks at IMG Academy in Bradenton for preseason training, and Méndez earned and converted a penalty kick to give Orlando City a 1-1 draw in a closed door scrimmage against the New York Red Bulls. 

Méndez said he’s focused on the start of his first season with his new club. Orlando City begins league play at home on March 2 against NYCFC. 

“It would be a beautiful thing to play in front our crowd and to bring our national team to Orlando because this is my city now, Orlando,” he said through a translator. “If I’m called up to that FIFA break, I’ll be very happy to perform in front of our crowd, defending the colors of our country. Right now though, we’re concentrating 100 percent on the beginning of our season. We’ll see what the national team lays out for us.”

New U.S. national team coach Gregg Berhalter will get to choose from the entire USMNT player pool because the match falls during a FIFA international window. The United States is 4-5-5 all-time against Ecuador. The two teams last faced each other in the quarterfinals of the 2016 Copa América Centenario — the U.S won that match 2-1. 

It’ll be Berhalter’s third match at the helm. 

“Ecuador has an experienced, athletic team that will provide a good test for our group. We will use this opportunity to continue to build on the foundation of the team as we develop our style of play,” Berhalter said in a news release. “Playing in Orlando Stadium is a great soccer experience — the atmosphere is fantastic.”

The last time the U.S. played in Orlando City Stadium was in 2017. The USMNT defeated Panama 4-0 in front of an announced sellout crowd of 25,303. March’s match will be the USMNT’s third all-time in Orlando. 

“This is a fantastic opportunity for our fans to be part of the U.S. men’s national team journey,” said Orlando City SC CEO Alex Leitão. “In the two years since we opened Orlando City Stadium, our fans have created an energy and atmosphere that continues to bring more marquee soccer events to the city of Orlando, exposing us to many different audiences and countries around the world.”

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