Philly Sports Live

US Learns Hex Schedule For World Cup Qualifiers

The Confederation of North, Central American & Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) held the draw last night to determine the schedule of matches for the final round of regional qualification for the 2014 World Cup in Brasil.  A formal draw had become necessary following the inability of the federation heads of the remaining six nations to agree to a schedule.  The draw was conducted by FIFA’s Head of Olympic & World Cup Qualification Gordon Savic, and held in CONCACAF’s new headquarters in Miami.  USMNT Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann, CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb, and new General Secretary Enrique Sanz, formerly of Traffic Sports were among the notables in attendance.

The final round of regional qualification, known as the Hexagonal or Hex, is a series of home and home fixtures between the six remaining national teams, taking place from February to October of 2013.  The top three teams at the end of the round will receive automatic berths in the 2014 World Cup, while the fourth place finisher will play the champion of Oceania, presumed to be New Zealand, for a 4th spot.  This year’s participants include the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama & Jamaica.

The match schedule for the US team which emerged from the draw is far from the favorable one they had hoped for.  The Americans will open on the road in Honduras February 6th, and play three of their first four matches on the road.  The schedule also includes back to back matches against Costa Rica & at Mexico, the two toughest opponents the US will face, in late March.  The Americans had hoped to host El Tri in February, when the cold weather of the northern US has traditionally given them an advantage, but the match will instead be held September 10th.

The Full Schedule:

2/6  vs Honduras at San Pedro Sula

3/22 vs Costa Rica

3/26 at Estadio Azteca, Mexico City

6/7 vs Jamaica at Independence Park, Kingston

6/11 vs Panama

6/18 vs Honduras

9/6 vs Costa Rica at Estadio Saprissa

9/10 vs Mexico

10/11 vs Jamaica

10/15 vs Panama at Estadio Rommel Fernandez

Site selection for games in the United States are expected to be made over the next two months, and Philadelphia is in a strong position to be awarded one of the five matches.  Crew Stadium in Columbus is favored to host the Mexico match, as the US is undefeated in World Cup qualifiers there, including two 2-0 victories over Mexico. According to a source at the draw last night, rumors circulated in Miami of an agreement between USSF President Sunil Gulati and his Mexican counterpart, FMF head Justin Campeon, struck during the schedule discussions in September, to play the Mexican match in Vera Cruz in exchange for the US not assigning their leg to Columbus.  Such is the power of Dos a Cero.

Kansas City’s Livestrong Sporting Park is likely to see the final match against Jamaica, after their superb showing for the Guatemala qualifier in September.  Rio Tinto Stadium outside of Salt Lake City is the logical choice for the Costa Rica match, based on its altitude and location relative to Mexico City.  New York, Dallas & Houston are not preferred for qualifiers due to the size & ethnic diversity of their population, while west coast locations are generally ruled out because of longer travel times for European-based players, and in the case of Seattle, their plastic turf and fans.  The desire to play on natural grass also rules out Boston, leaving Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington DC & Nashville to vie for the remaining two games.  With the 2013 Gold Cup also to be played in the US this summer, cities that miss out on qualifiers are almost assured of being first in line for matches in the regional championship.

Stick with Philly Sports Live for coverage of the USMNT, including coverage of the upcoming USA / Russian friendly November 14th, Camp Strudel in January and the upcoming site announcements for the Hex.