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The Next Best Thing to Being a World Cup Seed


Every fan of the US team has been hoping that the stars could align, the flipped coin could land on its edge and that somehow the US could be seeded in the World Cup draw.  Being among those top eight seeds would make a huge difference and the path to the final 16 would be much easier.

Well, let’s face reality.  That is not going to happen.  If France and Argentina did not qualify for the World Cup Finals, there was an outside shot, but with Argentina in and France well on their way, it is time to put that fantasy back into cold storage for another four years.  However, there is one possibility that would be just as good, if not better, than being among those top eight – having the host South Africa be a top seed and getting drawn into their group.

The odds are pretty high that the overlords at FIFA will make South Africa a top eight seed.  They do not want to see the host country humiliated in this tournament, and while there may be no stopping that eventuality, FIFA probably wants to give them every opportunity to get out of their group.  Presuming that is the case, the most important decision will come next week when the pots for the draw are determined.

Presuming that Uruguay finishes off Costa Rica, there will be three CONCACAF teams going to South Africa.  Cross your finger and toes that FIFA decides to put the three CONCACAF teams in with the five teams from Africa.   If they do that, it means that one of the three CONCACAF teams will be drawn against South Africa because FIFA will not allow two African teams in the same group.  That would give us a one in three chance of being drawn against South Africa, which is a lot better chance than the one in eight odds we would normally face.  In fact, if we get drawn against South Africa, our group would be as good as we could possibly hope for, seeded or not.  We would be in a group with South Africa, one of the Asian or non-Argentina/Brazil  CONMEBOL teams, and one of the non-seeded European teams.  Not bad at all.

We will know much more next week when the pots are determined, and of course, the December 5 draw is as important to the US chances as finding someone with speed in the forward position.  Much will depend on what happens when those ping pong balls are opened.

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  1. Rex

    November 19, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    USA worst draw (using speculated pots):

    • Eric Altshule

      November 19, 2009 at 5:00 pm

      Unlikely. Spain and Argentina will probably be seeded teams. Portugal might be seeded too.

  2. Rex

    November 19, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    Best possible USA draw:
    South Africa-85
    Just think if USA wasnt drawn from that pot:
    South Africa-85
    North Korea-91

  3. Rex

    November 19, 2009 at 11:17 am

    I think FIFA will be force to entertain the possibility of 1 group with two African teams. Too much moving around will have to be done to prevent it.

  4. Eric Altshule

    November 18, 2009 at 12:37 am

    From FIFA’s perspective, the only difference between putting CONCACAF with the African teams and putting the COMNEBOL with the African teams is who they prefer to see South Africa face. My gut says that FIFA will believe that SA stands a better chance facing the CONCACAF teams (especially Honduras) and will elect to put CONCACAF in the pot with Africa. Of course, if SA actually draws Honduras, the paranoids who believe the fix is in will have plenty of ammunition when they see that ball open up…….

  5. Tom

    November 17, 2009 at 11:09 am

    I think you’re on to something here; although I think Kartic might be on to something as well.

    What do you guys think is better for the World Cup as a competition? Group the 3 CONCACAF teams with the 5 African teams, or with the 5 Asian/Oceana teams? Which level is North America at?

  6. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    November 17, 2009 at 8:40 am

    Great thoughts Eric, although…….

    …..It is also possible that the three CONCACAF teams get put in with the four AFC and single Oceania teams. The five non seeded African teams are placed with the three non seeded COMNEBOL teams.

    Obviously, I would rather play South Africa than any other seed, but if we face a COMNEBOL country that is unseeded (Chile, Paraguay or Uruguay) we’d be decided underdogs and would likely have little margin for error in the other two games, which could include Australia or South Korea, which is no easy task. So again, it’s all a crap shoot and you cannot avoid playing good teams in a World Cup.

  7. Berlin

    November 16, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    Never thought of that. Good piece. Careful what you wish for though, remember Korea/Japan in ’02 and that team that hadn’t won a game since the 50s a few years before.

  8. Ted Meyer

    November 16, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    I believe the Final Draw is on the 4th not the 5th.

  9. Kyle

    November 16, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    I dunno, i’d feel kind of bad if we were to knock South Africa out at their own world cup…

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