By Ross Kelly
For a sport whose offseason is during the summer, soccer has been in the news a lot lately, rather for big events or salacious headlines. There was, of course, the triumphant USWNT in the Women’s World Cup and the disappointing USMNT in the ongoing Gold Cup. Also, the International Champions Cup is in session with upcoming matches in China, Europe, and the United States. Outside of the events, there has been the whole FIFA corruption situation and the subsequent announced resignation of president Sepp Blatter. Oh, yeah and the MLS is going on.
Then on Saturday soccer fans were treated to more news, this time involving international competition and, specifically, the World Cup. The preliminary draw for the 2018 World Cup was held in St. Petersburg, Russia. This is held to determine the groups, matchups, and schedules for the upcoming phases of qualifying. With Russia as the 2018 host, they are the only team that has already qualified for the World Cup and 183 nations will be whittled down to the remaining 31 spots during the qualifying rounds.
For the CONCACAF draw, the United States was slotted into Group C. Here are all of the nations in Group C:
Trinidad & Tobago
St. Vincent & the Grenadines/Aruba
The top two within each Group will then advance to the next stage of qualifying. The US is currently in the fourth round of qualifying and if they finish within the top two then they will advance to the fifth and final round of qualifying along with five other teams. Out of the six teams in Round Five, the top three will then represent CONCACAF in the World Cup and the fourth place team will enter into a playoff with an Asian team for a chance to advance.
The next World Cup qualifying games will take place between November 9 and 17. The USMNT will play two games during that week, two more between March 21 and March 29, and then their final two between August 29 and September 6 of 2016.
Then, the final CONCACAF qualifying round will take place between November 7 2016 and October 10 2017. A total of 10 matches will be played by each team with the top three advancing to the World Cup as mentioned above. If we take care of business on the field and run through the other CONCACAF teams as expected, then we should clinch a 2018 World Cup birth in either June or September 2017. However, if we play like we did against Jamaica in the Gold Cup, all bets are off.
The full draw for all nations can be seen here.