2014 WC Qualifying Changes Could Hurt USA

MEXICO CITY - AUGUST 12: Landon Donovan #10 of the USA has trash thrown on him as he attempts a corner kick during the FIFA World Cup Qualifying soccer match between the USA and Mexico at Azteco Stadium August 12, 2009 in Mexico City, Mexico. USA lost 2-1. (Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

Mexico and the United States are unquestionably the class of CONCACAF, having comprised two of the three CONCACAF World Cup entrants in each World Cup since 1994 (Mexico was banned from the 1990 World Cup for having used overage players in the 1988 Olympics). But CONCACAF’s proposed qualification process for the 2014 World Cup may prevent the two powerhouses from ever seeing each other in a WC qualifying match.

Here’s the Shin Guardian’s summation of the new process:

  • Round 1 – The 6 lowest ranked teams will compete in a playoff to pare the entire field down to 32 teams. (2 games per team)
  • Round 2 – The 32 teams will be divided up into 8 groups of 4
  • Round 3 – The top 2 teams from each group are put into 4 groups of 4
  • Round 4 – The top 2 teams from each group are then put into 2 groups of 4. Group Winners are automatically in the WC.
  • Round 5 –The two 2nd place teams in the groups will playoff for the 3rd slot, with the loser facing off against a country from another federation for the right to go to the WC.

In the past, Round 2 was a set of home and away fixtures against one opponent and Round 3 was only three groups of four. If the new format passes FIFA’s ratification process, the US will have more matches against lower-ranked squads, which is not necessarily a bad change. The increased number of games gives peripheral players a chance to strut their stuff, and – more importantly – it gives CONCACAF’s lower-ranked countries more matches, raising their FIFA ranking and, as a result, raising USA’s ranking as well.

The problem comes in Round 4. Previously, this round was a single group of six countries who played each other home and away, so the US and Mexico were guaranteed two matches against each other. In the new format, the final groupings should be seeded, meaning it’s unlikely Mexico and the United States would ever face off.

The loss of those two matches eliminates the only qualifying games the United States had against top-class competition. Costa Rica, Honduras, and Canada (believe it or not) have some excellent players, but Mexico – on their best day capable of beating any country – is in another class. And that’s before bringing up the smog-filled, trash-throwing environment of Estadio Azteca.

Gringos, what do you think of the new qualification process? Do you want FIFA to allow the changes?

One Comments Post a Comment
  1. Bradley's Receding Hairline says:

    No one should be able to take away the right of a fan to throw refuse at a hated player!

    Seriously, if the change goes through, it’ll be even more important for gringos to get reps at the highest European club levels.

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