The New Zealand senior men's football team will play two key friendly internationals in the lead-up to the World Cup qualifiers in the Solomon Islands, with confirmation of matches against El Salvador and Honduras in the USA in May.
The All Whites will play El Salvador on May 23rd in Houston, then Honduras three days later in Dallas.
All Whites coach Ricki Herbert says it's been a good week with confirmation of the Solomon Islands hosting the OFC Nations Cup and now these two matches, while the US tour will provide valuable preparation for some players who will be out of season.
Herbert also says that given the geographical spread it is an opportunity to work with an extended group in the build-up to the Solomons, while to get two international matches of this stature is crucial to preparation for the Solomons in terms of the heat and getting through international matches with a short rest period between matches.
The tour gives Herbert's charges some useful game time prior to the OFC Nations Cup which doubles as stage two of World Cup qualifying in Oceania and is scheduled to be played at Lawson Tama Stadium in Honiara from the 1st to the 12th of June.
While the friendlies are scheduled outside of FIFA windows, many overseas-based players will be in their off-season. The A-League will finish mid-April and most European leagues are due to conclude in mid-May. US-based players will be mid-season of the MLS, which will need some negotiation with clubs to secure release from their players for the matches.
El Salvador and Honduras are both likely to be in the mix for the intercontinental playoff between OFC and CONCACAF scheduled for November 2013, and follows hot on the heels of the friendly with Jamaica, who loom as another potential opponent.
The winner of stage three of Oceania qualifying - comprised of the top four teams from stage two - will face the fourth placed team in CONCACAF home and away in November 2013 for a place the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.