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Sources: U.S. men's soccer will play Nigeria at EverBank Field in pre-World Cup match

Posted: February 25, 2014 - 9:09am  |  Updated: February 26, 2014 - 12:07am
In this Jan. 22, 2014, file photo, United States' Landon Donovan kicks the ball during a soccer training session in Sao Paulo.  AP Photo/Nelson Antoine, File
AP Photo/Nelson Antoine, File
In this Jan. 22, 2014, file photo, United States' Landon Donovan kicks the ball during a soccer training session in Sao Paulo.

The city of Jacksonville will host a World Cup sendoff match between the United States and Nigeria on June 7, sources confirmed to the Times-Union. But any official announcement by the U.S. Soccer Federation has been delayed as it deals with a friendly against Ukraine being moved Tuesday to the island of Cyprus.

Jacksonville has been considered a front-runner for months to host the last of three World Cup sendoff matches. Monday night, city officials began receiving assurances that the U.S. and Nigeria will play at EverBank Field as the final prelude to the World Cup in Brazil, which was first reported by the BBC.

However, city officials declined to comment any further than a statement issued Tuesday out of respect for U.S. Soccer making an official announcement, which is expected no later than Friday.

Once U.S. Soccer announces its three host cities, information should become available on how fans can purchase tickets. City officials are hopeful that a World Cup sendoff match at EverBank Field will attract a crowd of 60,000-plus fans.

“The city of Jacksonville is awaiting formal confirmation from U.S. Soccer, but we are excited for any opportunity to host America’s team at EverBank Field,” said a statement released by city public information officer Kristen Sell. “Jacksonville has proven to be a huge supporter of national soccer.”

U.S. Soccer spokesman Neil Beuthe told the Times-Union on Tuesday that no official announcement was imminent because of the political unrest in the Ukraine, whose football federation agreed Tuesday to move its March 5 friendly against the U.S. from Kharkiv to the island of Cyprus.

Jacksonville playing host to the U.S. men’s national team continues a recent surge in soccer momentum, which began in May 2012 when EverBank Field drew 44,438 spectators — a record attendance in the southeast United States — for a friendly against Scotland. U.S. star Landon Donovan scored a hat trick in a 5-1 victory for the Americans.

Nine months later, the U.S. women’s national team played a friendly against Scotland and attracted 18,656 fans, also a record for the American women in this region of the country.

The U.S. team, coached by Jurgen Klinsmann, will hold a training camp on the West Coast and then play three friendlies in late May and early June. The last sendoff match will be against Nigeria because it plays a similar style to Ghana, another African country that is the opening World Cup opponent for the U.S. on June 16 in Brazil.

Germany and Portugal will join the U.S. and Ghana in Group G of World Cup play. Nigeria is in the Group F pool with Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Iran. The two teams with the best records from each pool will advance to the round of 16.

Gene Frenette: (904) 359-4540