Posted October 08, 2013

Math shows odds against U.S. earning top-eight seed for 2014 World Cup

2014 World Cup, MLS, U.S. men's national team, World Cup qualifying
Even wins in its remaining qualifiers likely wouldn't earn the U.S. a top-eight seed in the 2014 World Cup.

Even wins in its last two qualifiers likely wouldn’t be enough to earn the U.S. a top-eight seed in the 2014 World Cup. (Ben Radford/Getty Images)

Does the United States have a realistic chance of becoming one of the eight top group seeds at the World Cup 2014 draw?

That’s the most important question for the U.S. when it comes to the draw on Dec. 6 in Bahia. And now we’ve crunched the numbers to provide an answer: Nope. As helpful as it would be for the U.S. to get a top seed (and avoid the other top seeds in the group stage), the chances are so slim that I’ll run naked through the streets of Manhattan if it ends up happening.

Let’s break it down. Last week FIFA announced it would use the order from the October world rankings — the ones that come out after the games over the next week — to decide the seven teams that will join host Brazil as the top group seeds. Currently the U.S. is No. 13 in the rankings. But what if the U.S. (which has already qualified for Brazil) wins both its games this week against Jamaica and at Panama?

Even if that happens, the U.S. is likely to fall from No. 13 to No. 14, overtaking Greece but being overtaken by England and Switzerland. In that case, the Americans would have to hope that six teams above them would fail to qualify for the World Cup in order to get a top seed. And that’s basically impossible.

Here’s how the rankings are likely to look after this week (even if the U.S. wins both games):

What should U.S. fans hope for over the next month for the U.S. to somehow get a top seed?

• The U.S. needs to win its games at home against Jamaica and away at Panama.

• England can’t win both home games this week against Montenegro and Poland.

• Switzerland needs to get fewer than four points away at Albania and at home against Slovenia.

• The Netherlands (who are already qualified) need to get fewer than four points away at Turkey and at home against Hungary.

• Chile can’t win both its games: at Colombia and at home against Ecuador.

• Uruguay (the most likely South American team to be in the intercontinental playoff) must be upset by Jordan.

• Croatia and Portugal have to be upset in their UEFA playoffs and fail to make the World Cup.

Time to cue up Lloyd from Dumb and Dumber: “So you’re telling me there’s a chance!”

STRAUS: Omar Gonzalez (hip) out, Michael Orozco in for U.S. World Cup qualifiers

Other takes on the World Cup seed picture:

• The Croatia-Belgium qualifier Friday in Zagreb could have a huge impact on World Cup seeds. No matter what happens in that game, Belgium is still in the driver’s seat to win the group and the automatic World Cup bid that comes with it. But if Croatia wins Friday, it would be in a dynamite position to take a seed at Belgium’s expense (as long as Croatia were to go on and win its UEFA playoff in November).

• As a team that’s unlikely to get a World Cup seed, the Netherlands is going to be a team nobody wants to draw from a European unseeded pot.

• We’re likely to see four South American teams among the eight seeded teams: Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Colombia.

• A bit more explanation of the World Cup draw: Only one pot at the draw is likely to contain seeded teams. (There is no pot of “No. 2 seeds.”) All the other teams will be put in different draw pots based on geography. In other words, all the CONCACAF teams will be in one pot, potentially with all the African teams.

More U.S. soccer-related notes:

• The Columbus Crew is still looking to hire a full-time coach for next year, and I’ve learned that Brad Friedel went to Ohio during last month’s international window and spoke to the club as a candidate for the head coaching job. Friedel is from Ohio and played for the Crew, and he already has his UEFA B coaching license with his A license on the way. If Columbus’ interest continues, the Crew would have to buy Friedel out of the last half-year of his Tottenham contract for him to take over in time for the start of next season’s training camp.

• My seven-page story on Bob Bradley and the Egyptian national team is in the new issue of Sports Illustrated. It’s a remarkable situation: In the midst of a national political crisis and the suspension of the domestic league, Bradley’s Egypt is the only team in the world that is perfect in World Cup qualifying.

Egypt faces Ghana in its first African playoff game next Tuesday, and I was with Bradley in Cairo last month when Egypt had the bad luck of drawing the powerful Ghanaians. As part of a video montage before the draw, Asamoah Gyan’s goal that knocked the U.S. out of the last World Cup played on the screen. Bradley told me he has thought about that game “many, many times.” Now he has a chance to get some revenge and lead Egypt to its first World Cup since 1990. If he can do that, Bradley will be a national hero.

You can read my complete story on Bradley on Wednesday on SI.com.

• On Friday the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame will induct new members Joe-Max Moore and Peter Vermes, with fellow Hall of Famer Eric Wynalda giving the induction speech for Moore in Kansas City. Sadly, the building that housed the Hall of Fame in Oneonta, N.Y., closed in 2010 due to finances, and most of the artifacts are currently being stored in a North Carolina warehouse owned by Eurosport.

U.S. Soccer tells me restarting a Hall of Fame building would take at least $10 million in start-up costs and $2 million in annual operating costs. I’m told there has been lukewarm interest but nothing serious enough to make significant progress.

23 comments
ChristianLobo
ChristianLobo

According to my calculations after the results today being taken into consideration it seems the top 5 here on this list are pretty much guaranteed a seed as they are qualified and in good standing on the ranking (Spain, Argentina, Germany, Italy, Colombia) ......ok Spain have surprisingly not yet sealed their qualification but they should easily overcome Georgia in their last game. The 6th spot should go to Belgium after they beat Croatia in a crucial game today, they look likely to be a seed now and booked their ticket by winning. Next are hosts Brazil who are guaranteed a seed as hosts, then there is one last seed and this one really depends on whether Uruguay beats Argentina the 15th.... only if they beat Argentina they will likely be a seed .....IF they qualify for the finals that is, after a likely 2 legged play-off against Jordan in November. If Uruguay fail to qualify Switzerland could be a seed if they beat Slovenia at home, otherwise Holland could actually be a seed, 

DSM
DSM

Solid analysis of the US team's chances.

The Cup draw always seems to wind up having a clear "Group of Death" rather than reasonably even groups.

BryanCustard
BryanCustard

Are you tools going to actually read the article? Other than the top 8 seeds, the "pots" are geographical and have nothing to do with the talent on your team. SMH

antbib
antbib

Grant Wahl threatening to run naked through the streets of Manhattan? Can he be prosecuted for making terroristic threats?

M20
M20

It's really amazing how random the draw is. The US could end up in a group with Brazil and the Netherlands. Or it could end up in a group with Colombia, Hungary, and a weak Asian or African team. It's so odd that you scratch and claw and fight for 2-3 years to get to this tournament, but when it comes down to it, your odds are affected by random luck more than anything else...

hapefish
hapefish

Unfortunately, the world cup draw is inherently biased against good teams from weak regions (USA and Mexico,in previous cycles) since they are almost guaranteed to find in a group with both a top seed and a quality European team. On the other hand, I don't think the USA should complain too much, since the same dynamic (good team in a weak region) is what allows the US to have one of the easiest paths towards qualification in the world.

leehwgoc
leehwgoc

This isn't news.  The odds of the US *ever* getting seeded for the World Cup are as likely as Appalachian State beating Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

Realistically, the US has to at least be a quarter-finalist in the previous World Cup to have a plausible chance of having enough points to get seeded for the next World Cup.

Dustin3
Dustin3

Top 8? Seriously? That's a long shot. They haven't been ranked in the FIFA top 20 let alone the top 10 all that much in the last 4 years. I'm just happy they've already qualified.

soccerBob
soccerBob

Will the US be placed in pot #2?  Depends on how much money US Soccer is willing to pay Blatter.

I assume they wont pay and will then be placed in Pot #4.


muser
muser

Uruguary? Hmmmm

But hey...How about those Ticos!

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

Won't matter much anyway. The goal for the USMNT is to get out of the group. That's pretty much it.  Anything after that is lagniappe.  Brazil should count itself lucky for the auto-bid. They are not looking all that powerful so far. And England is overrated as always. If they get stuck in the 'group of death', whichever that will be, they might not get out of it.

dabes2
dabes2

If the playoffs go as expected (Jordon lose to Conmbol 5th and New Zeland lose to Concacaf 4th) then I would expect

Pot 2: 8 of the 9 unseeded Euro teams.

Pot 3: Africa/Asia

Pot 4: Concacaf/2 unseeded conmebol/1 straggling European

Doesn't change much for USA w/ regards to dangers of the draw.  We can only hope to get as lucky as last time.  


mystafugee
mystafugee

@ChristianLobo They should base on a formula like they use for UEFA's coefficient.  Belgium has no business being a seed, prior to this they hadn't qualified for a major tournament in over 10 years.  

MichaelAlexander
MichaelAlexander

@leehwgoc  @leehwgoc Not necessarily.  FIFA announced that previous World Cup results no longer matter, as evidenced by the fact that Belgium will get seeded (they didn't make the previous 2 World Cups).  We could get seeded in 2018 if we were to finish first in qualifying, line up some pretty decent European/African/South American teams for friendlies, win the 2015 Gold Cup, and have an excellent showing at the Confederations Cup.


Until FIFA changes the rules and says seeding is based on World Cup performance from 1950-1990......

BobDeGrande
BobDeGrande

@soccerBob The only differences between the pots other than top seeds is geographical, there will be one of Eurpoean teams, one of Concacaf and African teams, and one of the remaining teams. These pots are not seeded. The US would deserve a #2 seed if they were, but they are not.

Dustin3
Dustin3

@Rickapolis I dunno about your view on Brazil. I thought the same thing before June. But they won the mini-tournament (Confed Cup) against the likes of Spain and Italy who both sent strong squads. Right now, England will just be happy to be there

soccerBob
soccerBob

@Rickapolis Getting out of the group is largely dependent on what pot they are in.  If they come out of pot #4 are placed in a group with 3 other strong teams- their odds of getting out of the group are greatly diminished.

Hannibal
Hannibal

@Rickapolis I'd like to see them make the third round, but as you mention, the draw is the draw.  At the very least, I'll be satisfied if they're competitive every game (as in no more Belgium-style blowouts).

usamnt
usamnt

@dabes2  

Yup, given the relative 'weakness' of what you see in Pot 4 - we're typically unlucky in that we probably belong in the 12-18th place 'seed' depending on form; yet we end up in a 25-32 seeded spot given a traditional seeded draw based on strength of the other geo regions.

soccerBob
soccerBob

@dabes2 The US in pot #2  is a hope and pot #3 is likely.

I just hope the US doesn't somehow get placed in pot #4

paul.alan.robertson
paul.alan.robertson

@soccerBob @dabes2 exactly.  The other pots are supposed to be more or less equal, though there's always one that's strong (the european one).  The other pots are simply to ensure geographic diversity in the groups, so you don't have an all-european group for example.  

M20
M20

@soccerBob @dabes2 The other pots besides the pot with the 8 seeds are purely geographical. If you're not a seed, which pot you're in has nothing to do with how good you are. It's not like pot 4 is supposed to be the 8 worst teams or something.