U.S. exploring games with Italy, others who will miss World Cup

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LEIRIA, Portugal -- The U.S. Soccer Federation is looking into the possibility of hosting pre-World Cup international matches involving the United States, Italy, Netherlands, Ghana and Chile.

U.S. Soccer told ESPN FC and other media outlets on Tuesday that it was exploring the idea with MLS's marketing arm, SUM.

The USSF indicated that talks are in the exploratory stage, so it is unclear at the moment if an actual tournament will be held involving the above-mentioned teams or just a series of friendlies.

Each of the teams mentioned failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Italy's failure to get past Sweden in a two-legged playoff saw the Azzurri miss out on the World Cup for the first time since 1958.

The U.S. failed to qualify for the first time since 1986, while one has to go back to 2002 to find the last time Ghana or Netherlands were eliminated during qualification. Chile, the reigning South American champions, missed out as recently as 2006.

North America also figures to be an appealing destination for friendlies for some of the countries that qualified for Russia, especially teams from Central and South America as they make their way to Europe.