Photo by ISIPhotos.com
The final schedule for the Hexagonal Round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying will be set tonight, and will give the U.S. Men’s National Team a chance to start plotting out their road to the 2014 Worl Cup.
CONCACAF is turning the schedule draw into an event, holding it in Miami tonight and airing it on the CONCACAF website. While it will probably struggle to match the fanfare of events like the World Cup draw and UEFA Champions League draw, it could be the first step toward the HEX draw being an event worth remembering.
What matters most though, is the actual schedule, which will give the six remaining teams in the HEX a chance to start planning their upcoming year. For the U.S., it will mean figuring out how to plan their January and early February ahead of that first qualifier on Feb. 6th. It will also mean a chance for U.S. fans to start circling the calendar for the highly-anticipated qualifiers against Mexico.
So what should the U.S. be hoping for from the draw? Here is a look at the possibilities:
WHO TO START WITH?
It is generally accepted that Mexico is the strongest team in the region, and therefore nobody wants to really play them first or last, but if the U.S. could manage to draw Mexico at home for the Feb. 6th match, it would mark the third time in four Hex rounds that Mexico has had to come the U.S. in the winter. That would suit the U.S. well not only because it would mean being able to play Mexico in cold weather, but because the U.S. team’s deep collection of European-based players would be in mid-season form.
Playing Mexico in Mexico to start the qualifying round wouldn’t be as advantageous, but it would certainly create an opportunity for the U.S. to set a strong tone for the round. There is also the fresh memory of having beaten Mexico at Azteca in August, albeit in a friendly.
A home game against a team like Panama or Jamaica would be a good way to start things. Securing three points to kick things off could help build some momentum.
WHO TO FINISH WITH?
Nobody really wants to start with Mexico, but NOBODY wants to end qualifying with a match against Mexico either. You can make the argument that maybe Mexico could be qualified already come October, creating the chance to face a weaker Mexico team, but if that isn’t the case, you could wind up having to face Mexico with your World Cup ticket on the line.
There aren’t any pure pushovers in the final six, but it isn’t a stretch to say that Jamaica is the weakest link in the HEX, so a home qualifier against Jamaica in October would be a cushy finish, and the kind of match perfect to end qualifying with.
THE BEST SCENARIO
Here would be the best schedule for the U.S. to be drawn into tonight (Dates haven’t been set yet, but these months have traditionally been when qualifiers are played):
Feb. 6th- Home vs. Panama
March- at Costa Rica
April- Home vs. Mexico
June- at Jamaica
June- Home vs. Honduras
Aug.- at Panama
September- Home vs. Costa Rica
September- at Honduras
October- at Mexico
October- Home vs. Jamaica
The above schedule would give the U.S. team a game under their belt before hitting the road. It would also mean facing Mexico with both their European players and MLS players in season. It would also leave the trip to Mexico for October, when European-based players are in season, and when weather would be less of an issue. It would also give the Americans the relatively easy final game to have as a cushion in case things go badly.
What do you think of this schedule? Who are you hoping to see the U.S. open with? When would you like the U.S.-Mexico matches to be?
Share your thoughts below.