Why the World Cup draw is inherently unfair

In the lead-up to Friday’s World Cup draw, there has been plenty of speculation about the seeds, pots, and best- and worst-case scenarios.  While doing my best to take part in the guessing game, it dawned on me: the World Cup draw is an inherently unfair system.  Not just “kind of unfair”–the kind of unfair one could justify for the sake of geographical diversity–but really, blatantly, unforgivably unfair.  Which teams suffer most?  Those from non-European regions.

The current draw is organized in the following manner:  Pot 1 is composed of eight seeded teams–the host and seven others determined by a formula weighing FIFA rankings and past World Cup performances (which, in fact, is already a component of the FIFA ranking formula, but that’s another story).  This formula is not made known to the public until after the final World Cup qualifier is played (if at all), which conveniently allows FIFA to unseed the undesirables (see USA (ranked #4) in 2006, France (hand ball) in 2010).  The other three pots are determined solely by geography.  UEFA gets an entire pot to itself.  The other four or five regions are divided amongst the last two pots, keeping all teams from like regions in the same pot (for example, all CONCACAF teams are in Pot 2 and all CAF teams are in Pot 3).  This is done to ensure that no more than two European teams end up in a single World Cup group, and no teams from smaller regions are forced to play a team they already went through two years of qualifying with.  One team is drawn from each of four pots and presto! you have your group stage set.

On the surface, this may seem fair enough–the desire for geographical diversity in the group stage seems innocent enough, and I can’t pretend that ending up in Mexico or Honduras’ group wouldn’t be somewhat disheartening–but the de facto outcome of the draw is a seeding system based on region rather than merit.  In the case of the 2010 draw, a team that has accomplished much by FIFA’s standards–enough to earn them the ranking of #14 (USA)–is at a significant disadvantage to less accomplished team from a more favorable region, like Slovakia (ranked #34).  While FIFA might point to past World Cup performances as justification for grouping confederations as they have, the smaller regions have always had the cards stacked against them in these draws–the playing field is not level. Continue reading

Advertisements

US Soccer Studio 90 from Denmark

U.S. to face Slovakia on November 14

As reported just about everywhere, the USSF seems to have nailed down a friendly with Slovakia on November 14. This news comes on the heels of the announcement of the November 18 match against Denmark.

TV Info for US vs. Honduras: List of pubs showing the match

The below is the revised list of confirmed establishments who have contracted for the English telecast (via The Shin Guardian):

  1. Chicago – Small Bar
    Location: 2049 West Division
  2. San Diego – O’Brien’s Pub
    Location: 4646 Convoy St.
  3. San Francisco – Danny Coyles
    Location: 668 Haight St.
  4. AlbanyWolff’s Biergarten
    Location: 895 Broadway (Yelp lists 885, but they are wrong)
  5. New York – Madison Square Garden, Play By Play Sports Bar
    Location: Four Pennsylvania Plaza
  6. Atlanta – Fado Irish Pub
    Location: 273 Buckhead Ave.
  7. Chicago – Fado Irish Pub
    Location: 100 West Grand Ave
  8. New York – Nevada Smith’s
    Location: 74 3rd Ave
  9. Columbus – Fado Irish Pub
    Location: 4022 Townsfair Way
  10. Denver – British Bulldog
    Location: 2052 Stout Street
  11. Continue reading

How the U.S. can qualify for the World Cup on Saturday

As explained by US Soccer’s Studio 90:

Match Preview [6.28.09 vs. Brazil]

MATCH_PREVIEWLast game was amazing.  While Spain were clearly a better, more skilled team than the USA, everyone wearing the red, white, and blue put in a good performance.  And believe it or not, we were better on the day.  Even our old foe Bob Bradley deserves credit.  Ever since he changed to a proper 4-4-2, the team has scored 5 goals and all were from the run of play!  He even fulfilled our wish of a Bocanegra-DeMerit-Onyewu-Spector back line.  This team is really clicking right now, and as the old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke…”  Unfortunately, a questionable red card for Michael Bradley will force us to make at least one change.  (By the way, are we the only ones who have a hard time feeling bad for this kid?  He’s a great player, but he seems to average about .5 unnecessary yellow cards per game.  It was definitely harsh, but Michael needs to work on this bad habit.)  Benny Feilhaber seems like the best choice to start.  If he looks anything like he did at the end of the Spain game, he should fit in nicely.  Then again, Benny does have the ability to disappear in big matches.  Here’s hoping for the best.

This is the lineup we hope to see, and for once, we are confident that we’ll actually see it:

————–Altidore——–Davies—————–

Donovan———————————–Dempsey

————–Feilhaber———-Clark—————-

Bocanegra—-DeMerit—–Onyewu——-Spector

————————Howard————————-

Let’s bring home the trophy, boys.  (And if we’re really lucky, Liverpudlian band the Trophy Boyz might honor us with a commemorative song of this calibre.)

Match Preview: 6.21.09 vs. Egypt

MATCH_PREVIEWThe final first round games are about to kick off, so we thought we’d throw our ideal lineup out there. If for no other reason, it will give us the right to say “I told you so” in the event of a loss today. If we win, on the other hand, we will obviously never speak of this again.

———Altidore—–Davies———–
—————Donovan—————–
Torres——————————Adu
—————-Bradley—————–
Bocanegra–DeMerit–Onyewu–Spector
—————-Howard—————–

I’m so late with this post that they’ve probably already announced the actual lineups, but I’m going to post this anyway. I want to go watch Alexi Lalas blow my mind during the pregame show, so I’ll keep it quick.

• We need more offense. Not just to have any hope of advancing today, but in general. Why has Egypt been fun to watch in this tournament and we haven’t? They attack. It’s no coincidence that they’re in a better position than us today. Our solution? Let’s try playing with less than two defensive midfielders for once. We’ve thrown in a couple more offensive-minded players (Adu and Torres) for good measure. This fresh blood would hopefully inspire a little more competition for places among the team.

• We like Bocanegra on the left side, where he plays in France. DeMerit has shown that he can hold down the center spot, and though Bocanegra is a good central defender, we feel we get more of our better players on the field (and in their proper positions) if we have him on the left side.