The U.S. men's soccer team takes on Turkey in its opening game of the eight-team Confederations Cup tournament Thursday in France. The American team will have its hands full with Turkey, Brazil, and Cameroon in group play.
The U.S. men earned their spot in the FIFA Confederations Cup tournament by winning the 2002 CONCACAF regional Gold Cup tournament. The last time the U.S. team was in the Confederations Cup was 1999, when the Americans finished third behind Mexico and Brazil.
The Confederations Cup features the six confederation champions, Cameroon, Colombia, France, Japan, New Zealand, and the United States, World Cup Champion Brazil, and a guest team, Turkey, which reached last year's World Cup semifinals.
U.S. Coach Bruce Arena has selected a line-up made up mostly of Major League Soccer players. Some of the big names from last year's World Cup, including goalkeepers Brad Friedel and Kasey Keller, midfielder and captain Claudio Reyna and defender Tony Sanneh, are injured or resting.
The Americans open against Turkey Thursday, in St. Etienne and coach Arena says his team is expecting a tough contest.
"It is a team that is very aggressive going forward," he said. "Good players in every position. Their outside backs will go forward. They are skillful, they are quick in the counter. Their goalkeeping has been outstanding. So they are a team that is a good, aggressive, attacking team."
The U.S. men have played Turkey only once before, a 1-1 draw in Istanbul in 1991. The American team faces World Cup champions Brazil in its second match June 21. The U.S. men have faced Brazil 10 times previously, managing only one win, a memorable 1-0 surprise in the 1998 Gold Cup.
Brazilian team leader Ronaldo will not be playing because he has a Spanish League commitment and is not taking part in the tournament. Most of the stars from Brazil's 2002 World Cup champion squad are being rested, but Coach Arena still says the South Americans still are a formidable opponent.
The U.S. men have to face a team they have never played, Cameroon, in their third round-robin match June 23.
Arena says while the pressure is not as high as last year's World Cup, where the U.S. team lost to Germany in the quarterfinals, the Confederations Cup will still be a test for his squad.
"I think it is great that we can play in this competition against quality teams and really not have the pressure to produce results," Arena said. "So I think it is great for our team. I do not feel any pressure. I do not know if you say that I am confident, but I really look forward to the games. They are going to be interesting to see how our team responds to teams of this caliber."
Six of the nations in this year's Confederation's Cup fielded sides at the 2002 FIFA World Cup in South Korea and Japan, including four of the top nine finishers.