The New England Patriots vs. Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night (8:30, NBC) to open up the 2015 NFL regular season isn’t the only big time game taking place at Gillette Stadium this week, the U.S. men’s national soccer team hosts five-time World Cup champion Brazil on Tuesday (8, ESPN2). While the match is technically an international friendly, it has plenty of meaning for both squads since it serves as the final tuneup for the U.S. before their CONCACAF Cup against Mexico on Oct. 10 at the Rose Bowl (the winner goes to the 2016 Confederations Cup) while Brazil will continue its 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign. On paper, this looks like a total mismatch since the 28th-ranked (in the latest FIFA rankings) United States has only ever beaten No. 5 Brazil once in 17 total meetings (a 1-0 win way back in the 1998 Gold Cup semifinals). However, the U.S. is 10-2-2 all-time at Gillette Stadium-one of their favorite venues.
2015 has been mostly kind to the U.S., at least vs. top opponents: they are 3-1-1 against teams ranked in the Top-20 including victories against the Netherlands and defending World Champion Germany in their respective countries. The last time that these two teams met, Brazil came away with a 4-1 win in 2012 at FedEx Field in Landover, MD. Earlier this summer, the Americans clinched the top spot in Group A at the 2015 Gold Cup with a 1-0 shutout of Haiti in Foxborough.
There is a large Brazilian population (including Gisele) in the Greater Boston area and New England so expect a good amount of fans for both teams. This serves as a homecoming of sorts for three U.S. players: midfielder Alejandro Bedoya played at BC while midfielder Jermaine Jones will appear on his home-field for the Revolution and defender Geoff Cameron grew up in nearby Attleboro, MA.
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The last time out, the U.S. beat Peru 2-1 on Friday at RFK Stadium thanks to a brace (two goals) by striker Jozy Altidore and Brazil topped Costa Rica 1-0 on Saturday. While they aren’t quite the unstoppable juggernaut that they used to be, Brazil still boasts a star-studded roster with players like defenders David Luiz (PSG) and Danny Alves (Barcelona), midfielders Oscar (Chelsea) and Kaka (Orlando City SC) along with strikers Neymar (Barcelona) and Hulk (Zenit St. Petersburg)-who scored the game-winner vs. Costa Rica. A storyline to follow for Brazil is whether or not their head coach Dunga will have Neymar in the starting 11 after he was on the bench in their previous game. Neymar has been tabbed as the next Brazilian icon and so far the 23-year-old has delivered with 44 goals in 66 international appearances (5th all-time for Brazil).