The FIFA World Cup draw that placed England and the United States together is good for both countries' national teams, for Black Friday television ratings, even for Minnesota United.
The Loons have eight months for coaches and players to banter before it all begins in Qatar come November.
"It's a great draw for England and the USA, obviously England will be the [group] favorites, as you'd expect," said Adrian Heath, the Loons' English born-and-raised coach. "It's a great group for MLS. Obviously, England is one of the biggest football nations in the world. To have them in the group, the interest it generates is exciting. I think the U.S. has a legitimate chance to get out of the group."
Iran is also in Group B, and the fourth slot will be decided by a playoff involving Wales, Scotland and Ukraine.
"It certainly will be good for the game," Heath said. "The one thing I do know about England and the interest that national team generates around the world is not like many others, maybe Brazil. Being a supporter and having gone with the national team, I know the interest when they come to play is incredible."
England and the United States will play its group game the day after Thanksgiving — a 1 p.m. Central time kick on a holiday afternoon previously popularized by college football rivalry games or golf superstar skins games.
"The timing of it is going to be really, really good," Heath said. "All the pubs that show the football games will be really, really happy that it's 1 o'clock in the afternoon. That will be perfect."
Starting right back Romain Metanire, defensive midfielder Kervin Arriaga, attacker Franco Fragapane and fullbacks Kemar Lawrence and Oniel Fisher all trained with the team Tuesday in Blaine after Saturday's 2-1 home loss to Seattle.
Heath said Metanire "looks a lot more game ready" to make his season debut Sunday at Austin FC. He also said Fragapane "looks really healthy" and said the team "virtually has a clean body of health" today after so many have been sidelined by hamstring injuries.
Lawrence made his Loons debut as a second-half sub on Saturday in the 63rd minute. Until then, he hadn't played a game since January.
"I think he's ready to play," Heath said, meaning a starting role. "He has had a good 3 ½ weeks now where he has worked really hard and really well."
Arriaga returned from his Honduras national team by last Saturday's game, but the club couldn't get him registered in time to play.
"All his paperwork is done now," Heath said. "We won't have that problem again."
Second team's first time
Heath, his staff and some first-team players watched the club's new MNUFC2 reserve team play its first home game on Sunday, a 2-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City II at Allianz Field.
Heath noted the SKC reserve team is younger than a MNUFC2 team that had seven players make their pro debuts because Sporting has had a second team and academy for years.
MNUFC2 plays at Salt Lake City on Friday. "We still have a lot of work to do at that level," he said.
Heath said Adrien Hunou — the team's highest-paid player who has played just six minutes this season — wanted to play, but the timing of roster submission complicated matters. "Players want to play," Heath said.
A reason to celebrate
Goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair returned for Saturday's loss from Toronto and his Canadian national team's first World Club qualifying celebration since 1986. "Amazing experience, first time in 36 years," said St. Clair, who is vying for Canada's third and final keeper for Qatar. "Clinching at home, that fueled a lot of guys from Toronto. The stadium was packed out, being in front of our families was really nice."