Today’s World Cup Qualifying draw wasn’t the best news for the US National Team. Let me preface my remarks by stating that the US is the best team in its group and should advance to the hexagonal. That having been said, the grouping could have been a whole lot more favorable.Assuming each of the favorites advances beyond preliminary qualifying, the US will face Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago and Cuba in the first qualifying group. Trips by the US to Central America are always complicated and the bottom line is that Guatemala has devised a formula in its last two matches with the US to frustrate and stifle the US attack. The US must get 9 points from the 3 home matches to advance, and while getting full points at home versus Cuba and T&T shouldn’t be a problem, the Guatemala match looms as a potential pitfall.
Traveling to Cuba will also be a circus and again demonstrated FIFA’s penchant for grouping together nations with political disputes with potential matchups. In World Cup 1998 the US ended up in a group with Iran, a nation that has declared the US the “Great Satan” and Yugoslavia (Serbia) whom the US would be at war with less than a year later. Argentina and England have played three times in the World Cup since the Falklands War and African and Asian qualifiers have often times been filled with political and military disputes between the participating nations.
The trip to Cuba will not be fun and our players need to be mentally tough for that trip. The trip to Trinidad should be tricky as well but T&T’s golden generation of footballers are passing into the sunset and I believe they don’t pose a threat to qualify this go round.
Major League Soccer needs to make an effort with so many players in the league from CONCACAF nations to reduce its schedule next year during qualifying. Unfortunately MLS has chosen to continue expansion of the league by picking cities that don’t have soccer specific stadium plans in place. So it could be a while before MLS actually controls its own scheduling dates and moves towards making life easier for the Federations whose pool members play in MLS.
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