U.S. men's team opens 2012 against Venezuela and Panama

The U.S. will face familiar faces in Panama after hosting Venezuela as the team continues to prepare for World Cup qualifying.
Less than six months before the start of its campaign to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the U.S. men's team will continue preparations with a pair of international friendlies in January.

The U.S. will host Venezuela on Jan. 21 at 9 p.m. ET at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. Four days later, the team will be in Panama City, Panama, for its first-ever friendly against the familiar regional opponent.

The matches will be the culmination of the annual January camp that is primarily composed of domestic-based players, and the matches do not fall on international fixture dates. The next official FIFA date for international competitions is Feb. 29, 2012.

"It's very important that we start the year off in the right way with a good training camp and two challenging games," said U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. "We are going to continue to increase the demands on the players and have them develop a better understanding of how we want to play.

"Venezuela has done well to start World Cup qualifying and they earned a big victory against Argentina. Panama is a team the players know well from the Gold Cup, and we think traveling to Central America before qualifying is important to give them a taste of what the environment will be like there."

The U.S. is coming off a 3-2 victory over Slovenia, its second win in seven games under Klinsmann.