Proposal: USMNT to start World Cup qualifying in semifinal round next June


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CONCACAF has submitted its proposal for 2014 World Cup qualifying to FIFA, and under the proposed set-up, the United States and the five other highest-ranked teams in the region according to the March FIFA world rankings will begin qualifying in the semifinal round in June, 2012.

Under the proposal, which will be reviewed by the FIFA Executive Committee at the end of May, the preliminary round will consist of 10 nations vying for five spots in the first round. The preliminary winners and first-round entrants will go through a group stage featuring six groups of four teams each. Those six group winners will be entered into another group stage — this one with three groups of four — with the United States, Mexico, Honduras, Jamaica, Costa Rica and Cuba.

The top two teams in each group will advance to the final round of qualifying, the hexagonal, where each team plays each other home and away, and the top three teams automatically qualify for the World Cup. The fourth-place team would play in a qualifying playoff against a team from a different region. If the proposal is approved, the United States would play up to two fewer games than it has in each of the last two qualifying cycles.

What do you think of the proposal?

Share your thoughts below.

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53 Responses to Proposal: USMNT to start World Cup qualifying in semifinal round next June

  1. srfinger says:

    Seems like a pretty good set up.

    1. Most of the minnows get to play in one group stage, so its not one and done.

    2. We do not have to waste our time with playoff games against Bermuda.

    3. Most importantly, keeps the rivalry with Mexico alive. Qualifiers are different than friendlies. Glad we get the chance to go back to Azteca and try for a result.

  2. Artie says:

    I like it for US, and it’s fair enough to the true minnows. I wonder, though, about teams like Trinidad or Panama. It’s a pretty big drop-off from getting a bye to the semis versus having to slug out a four team double round robin, and I’m not sure the difference between teams 5-10 in CONCACAF is enough to justify that. I suppose any qualifying system put into place is going to have some version of that issue, however, so what do I know?

  3. as says:

    That US player is about to get the Pimp_Slap of his life.

    I’m glad the series is back on. The two best teams in the region need to play each other in meaningful games

  4. fifawitz1313 says:

    1. I Like it. Games against these minnows are usually blowouts or just really ugly games.

    2. It should increase the excitement for the smaller countries now that they won’t have to play some of the giants in the early rounds. They should feel like they at least have a chance now of going deeper into the qualifying cycle and I think that will overall be good for the region.

    3. Mexico Rivalry Restored!!

  5. DomiNate says:

    You said it all, great plan by CONCACAF.

  6. running trains says:

    Great pic Ives…time for another Caption Contest?

  7. NC Jeff says:

    Being a USMNT fan, I like it. For the US, it’s the same as 2010 and 2006 qualifying, but w/o a 2nd round knockout vs. somebody like Grenada. However, for Panama, TandT, and Guatemala, it’ll be tough … but hey, if they can’t get past the #13-18 team in the region, then they probably didn’t have much chance of finishing at least 4th overall anyway.

    Oh, looks like round-trip flights to MEX are running about $525.

  8. ZacIndy says:

    If by pimp slap you mean the mexican player is about to fall down writhing in agony by way of only the slightest of chest bumps from the US player, then i need to change my personal definition of pimp slap.

  9. Jay says:

    Yeah good idea, pointless for the USA to have a home and away against a team like Barbados let them face another weak team. They basically had to field some amateur players last qualifying cycle because they didn’t even have enough players to field a national team. And the second leg was just pointless USA just had to stop trying to they wouldn’t have to embarrass them. I thank Barbados for producing Rhianna and all but again it’s a waste of time for the USA to play a qualifying round with teams like that.

  10. maka says:

    Don’t worry, the ref will fix the situation. Oh wait, no, he is giving the US player a card while down the field another Mexican player punches a US player and runs away like a girl. Silly Mexicans, can’t you act like men?

  11. Zape says:

    I like it for the U.S., probably reduces the risk of injury for our players.

    Out of curiosity, what the heck did Cuba and Jamaica do to get a bye? I would think that El Salvador, TandT or Guatemala would make more sense.

  12. Dancy says:

    I actually think this could end up working out to benefit the 7-10 teams more than 1-6. The 7-10 teams get more games together in pressure situations and presumably come into the semifinal round having gotten results and confidence. The 1-6 teams need to get their act together quickly as a 6 game group is not forgiving to slow starts. I don’t think this would hurt the US or Mexico too much, but the other teams better get out of the gate fast.

  13. patrick says:

    while I don’t really have a problem with it, it does mean 2 fewer camps where we get to have the full team together. For a team thats trying to introduce new players, we should want all the games we can get. It’s matches like bermuda, panama etc that let us see new players and initiate them into the system and we’ll now have two less opportunities to do so.

  14. Giggsy says:

    Jamaica was #4 and Cuba #6 in the FIFA CONCACAF Rankings for March 2011 … as the article on the USMNT Blog indicated.

  15. Giggsy says:

    i think this is about the fairest qualifying you could come up with.

    1. all but 5 of the smallest minnows get to play in a group stage.

    2. the bulk of CONCACAF teams that enter at the 1st Rd would have to/get to play 22 games to qualify for the WC and most of the teams that “need improving” in the region (like say Canada) are likely to get at least 12 games even if they fail to qualify for the hexagonal.

    3. for the top teams in CONCACAF it is still 16 games to get to the WC and this time none are complete wastes against utter minnows (which are a waste of both the team like the US’s time and the minnow’s).

  16. ChelseaMatt says:

    The irony is that after all the fear re: no hex and the end of the USA vs Mexico qualification rivalry, we actually ended up with a plan that makes more sense than the old system. Kudos to CONCACAF! But wait, still needs to be approved by FIFA, and remember the who the idiot in charge of that farcical organization is!

  17. Leo the Lion says:

    This is an excellent point.

    Team cohesion matters. The early rounds would develop it.

  18. Eurosnob says:

    If the new format means less games (and wins) for the USMNT, I wonder what effect it would have on our standing in the FIFA rankings? These rankings do come into play to determine the seeded teams for the WC. The draw was very kind to the US in the last world cup despite not being seeded, but they could have easily ended up drawn to the group with Brazil, Portugal and Ivory Coast. Also, the inclusion of Jamaica and Cuba among the top six teams seems a bit arbitrary since none of them made the hexagonal last time around. Are they so much better than teams like El Salvador, Trinidad and Tobago, Canada, Panama and Guatemala that they begin qualifying in the semi-final round?

  19. Eurosnob says:

    The idiot is up for reelection and the last thing he wants is to piss off the Concacaf, which will vote as a single block of votes.

  20. Giggsy says:

    using the March 2011 FIFA rankings (that this proposal is said to use) and the idea that “top seeds” always advance (not going to really happen but strictly for illustrative purposes) here is what the CONCACAF Qualifying would look like under this:

    PRELIM ROUND (matched highest seed v lowest seed):

    BELIZE (26) v Montserrat (35)
    DOMINICAN REP (27) v Anguilla (34)
    UK VIRGIN ISL (28) v US Virgin Isl (33)
    ST LUCIA (29) v Aruba (32)
    TURKS & CAICOS (30) v Bahamas (31)

    FIRST ROUND (groups are filled by highest to lowest out of Pot A/Pot C and lowest to highest from Pot B/Pot D)

    Group A: PANAMA (7); Dominica (18); Puerto Rico (19); Turks and Caicos (30)

    Group B: CANADA (8); Guatemala (17); Barbados (20); St Lucia (29)

    Group C: EL SALVADOR (9); St Kitts & Nevis (16); Curacao (21); UK Virgin Isl (28)

    Group D: GRENADA (10); Suriname (15); St Vincent & Gren (22); Dominican Rep (27)

    Group E: TRINIDAD & TOBAGO (11); Guyana (14); Cayman Islands (23); Belize (26)

    Group F: HAITI (12); Antigua & Barbuda (13); Nicaragua (24); Bermuda (25)

    SEMI-FINAL ROUND (groups are filled by highest to lowest out of Pot A/Pot C and lowest to highest from Pot B/Pot D)

    Group A: USA (1); CUBA (6); Panama (7); Haiti (12)

    Group B: MEXICO (2); COSTA RICA (5); Canada (8); Trinidad & Tobago (11)

    Group C: HONDURAS (3); JAMAICA (4); El Salvador (9); Grenada (10)


    Hexagonal Group: USA (1); MEXICO (2); HONDURAS (3); Jamaica (4); Costa Rica (5); Cuba (6)

  21. ChelseaMatt says:

    Wow. Under the set up only one of Canada or Guatemala gets to the semifinal round. Could it be another early round flameout for Canada in World Cup qualifying?

  22. ChelseaMatt says:

    I don’t truly believe the single block thing — that’s for PR purposes and is used as a bargaining chip

  23. Josh D says:

    Don’t like number 2: How is it wasting our time by playing competitive games?

    I’d love to see our younger guys grow by playing minnows and then insert the first team when needed against the bigger teams.

    Our region is already the worst for competing in any way because it’s so easy, let’s not make it any easier so we stop inflating our chances at the World Cup only to come home feeling we should of done more.

    The more competitive games the better.

  24. Josh D says:

    “Let go of my purse, I DON’T KNOW YOU!!!”

  25. Josh D says:

    Great point!

    How are we expected to bleed in youth when all they get is u20 games or friendlies where the other team doesn’t care?

    You get them to play against these minnows the same as Europe.

    Real talent can only be tested in competitive games that have meaning.

  26. Josh D says:

    Excellent point and something that needs addressing.

  27. Josh D says:

    Hope this builds into a great rivalry!

    UK VIRGIN ISL (28) v US Virgin Isl (33)

    GO US!!

  28. jayrig5 says:

    They’re not competitive games though. May as well be playing a local high school team. Remember Barbados (I think) issuing ads, trying to find players leading up to the USA game?

    Playing awful teams leads to bad habits. This proposal would seem to increase the percentage of truly competitive teams that the US would play.

  29. ChelseaMatt says:

    Awesome!! Think it might be broadcast on

  30. Steve McSteve says:

    This only shortens the U.S. qualifying path by 2 games. And those 2 games are usually against an uber-minnow like Barbados.

  31. Taylor says:

    all i really care about is if we keep the home and home matches with Mexico. one day, we are going to win at Azteca, and I want to be there for it

  32. Steve McSteve says:

    It means only two less games for the U.S. team. Our qualifying path went from 18 games to 16 games. And no, losing two wins against a Barbados level opponent will not have a big impact on our FIFA ranking.

    As for Jamaica and Cuba, well, I agree that there’s definitely a top 4 in CONCACAF right now (US, Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica) but this plan requires byes for the top 6. Using the hex from last cycle definitely could be one method, though those results are years old.

  33. Steve McSteve says:

    Well, Giggsy set up the system based on pure seeding. I could be wrong but I think the rankings will be used to divide teams into pots and then there will be a draw. So Canada would only have a 1/6 chance of drawing Guatemala.

    Still, I agree with the premise. Whatever top seed in the first group stage draws Guatemala I can’t imagine will be very happy.

  34. Brent McD says:

    as long as they bring back the Hex, then it’s good. USA/Mex playing home and away is great stuff

  35. Eurosnob says:

    Steve, a couple of extra wins over the likes of Barbados could make a difference and, thus, have a huge impact if things are close in the rankings. Every extra point helps and don’t forget that wins in official FIFA fixtures as opposed to friendlies are weighted more heavily. European top teams play against Andorra, San Marino, Lichtenstein, Malta and the like in their group qualification tournament. Some of our competitors for being seeded in WC2014 will pick easy wins against opponents like that and extra points to go towards FIFA rankings. I am not saying that not playing two extra games against a weak opponent in the FIFA WC qualification tournament will ALWAYS make a difference, but it COULD.

  36. T Daddy says:


  37. T Daddy says:

    If you are someone who would like to see future Agudelos and Bunburys brought into the full team these are the games – against the minnows – for them to get their foot in the door. By nixing them all they really have are Jan camps.

  38. Jake says:

    US and Mexico should just go straight to the hexagonal. Why waste time in the group states before.

  39. offcolorcommentary says:

    Canada always seems to draw a tough group (Mexico and Costa Rica/Honduras). If they get lucky they could end up in a group where the second best team is Cuba or Costa Rica and then they would have a chance.

    BTW, didn’t T&T make the Hex last time?? How have they fallen so far? They got Kenwyne Jones!

  40. BigLustythongGrl says:

    “sup gringo, you want to pass des way man? you need to pay a little mordita”

  41. DYCSoccer17 says:

    These preliminary matches will likely be played on FIFA international fixture dates, which means the USA can play good squads while the rest of the CONCACAF duke it out. I don’t see how this is a disadvantage. As a matter of fact, it’s an advantage for us.

  42. DYCSoccer17 says:

    Eurosnob – what’s stopping the USA from scheduling friendlies against stronger nations in place of meaningless games against Barbados? I imagine that will be done, and games/results against stronger national teams will help us a lot more in the rankings than beating up on some crap team ranked #100.

  43. Taylor says:

    Not exactly… Coaches couldn’t bring in younger guys for these minnows, because one slip up an you are out of the WC. Can you imagine if say we had to play Aruba or someone, and coach brought in a C team or even a B team. And what if by some fluke crazy accident we were to lose and be out of WCQ before it even really started. Can you possibly imagine what would happen?! All hell would break loose. Heads at USSF would roll. Coach can’t even risk it, so of course he would bring in the senior team.


  44. Taylor says:

    Besides, why couldn’t USSF use these FIFA dates to schedule some more high profile friendlies? These games would be FAR more beneficial to our team then beating Barbados 9-0 like last time.

  45. Big Chil says:

    According to, the top 6 ranked teams in CONCACAF are

    USA 855
    Mexico 818
    Honduras 597
    Costa Rica 540
    Jamaica 522
    Panama 488 (not Cuba)

    7. Canada 439
    8. Cuba 411
    9. El Salvador 388
    10. T&T 344

    A good Gold Cup could easily vault one of these teams into the top 6.

  46. Big Chil says:

    Clarification or Further Confusion:


    “The winners of the five preliminary round matchups…would advance to the first group phase.

    They would join the next highest 19 teams from the March 2011 FIFA rankings in one of six, four-team groups…

    The group winners would then qualify for a three-group semifinal round – tentatively set for June-October 2012 — along with the top six CONCACAF teams from the March FIFA rankings: the United States, Mexico, Honduras, Jamaica, Costa Rica and Cuba. ”

    So, the March 2011 rankings are being used to seed the first two phases. It doesn’t make sense to use the March 2011 rankings for the top 6 byes. Those rankings should be at the month of the draw, March 2012. The Gold Cup and inter confederation play is that much more important, then.

    Note that technically the ussoccer explanation doesn’t say March 2011, but “the top six teams from the March rankings.” I’m just wondering if it’s poorly explained.

  47. Kevin says:


  48. byron says:


  49. Brad says:

    Group B is the group of death for sure. đŸ˜‰

  50. Eurosnob says:

    You have to understand that wins in official games are weighed more heavily in FIFA rankings than wins in friendly games. And the US has already scheduled a slew of friendlies against strong opponents – Brazil (a loss), Argentina (a tie), Spain (TBD), etc. How many points toward FIFA rankings they will get from these friendlies remains to be seen, but I suspect not many and these points will be even further discounted down because they were in friendly games. The irony is that playing a couple of low ranked teams in an official qualification tournament, even after downward adjustment for strenth of the opponents, is likely to give us more points towards FIFA rankings than a bunch of friendlies against strong teams.

  51. Big Chil says:

    Never mind. It’s somewhat poorly explained, but the March 2011 rankings are used because the preliminary round AND the first round are played THIS summer, and the semi-final is played in 2012, so the six seeds who sit out the first round have to be determined now.

    It does affect the importance of rankings points earned during the Gold Cup.

  52. Mito says:

    HAHA funny, reminds of the times when US players have gotten kicked in the groin, choked out, slapped, stomped on, elbowed to the face…good times. Wish our players would grow a pair and not take it, but then again that’s not the American way.