As qualification for Brazil 2014 reaches its third stage in the North/Central American and Caribbean region, CONCACAF’s big stars come out to play. With many touting Mexico as comfortable favourites to win the qualifying tournament overall, it is up to CONCACAF’s other major nation to stake its claim for players‘ tickets to the World Cup.
Drawn in Group A, the Nationalteam of Soccer USA will kick off their qualifying campaign with two matches in June this year, firstly playing host to Antigua and Barbuda and then four days later travelling south to take on Guatemala. The fourth and final team in Group A, Jamaica, will have to wait until September to see if they have what it takes to overturn the group favourites on their home turf.
Although a top two finish would be enough to see the USA into next year’s final qualifying group, only first place is likely to satisfy a team that boasts so much talent. With Jamaica expected to be the sternest test for the Americans, the thirteen-place advantage in the FIFA World Rankings should be enough to suggest that anything less than first place in Group A will be viewed as an underachievement.
With the all the matches in Round 3 to be completed by the end of the year, it is all then down to the final stage. A six-team group compromising of the three winners and three runners-up of the Round 3 groups, Round 4 will decide which nations will represent CONCACAF in Brazil.
The three top-placed teams at the end of the group matches will qualify automatically for 2014 with the fourth-placed given the lifeline of an Intercontinental Play-off game. Competing against the winner of the Oceania region, this match will provide the last hope of qualification for CONCACAF nations, a position the USA will not expect to find itself in come 2013.