The United States will open its bid to qualify for its sixth consecutive World Cup finals on February 11 against Mexico at home.
The U.S., along with Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, and Trinidad & Tobago, will compete in the 10-game round-robin format from Feb. 11-Oct. 14, 2009, with the top three teams automatically advancing to the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The fourth-place team will compete in a two-game playoff to be held Nov. 14 and Nov. 18 against the fifth-place finisher in South American qualifying.
U.S. coach Bob Bradley was pretty happy after the draw.
“The expectation is always that the last round will be very competitive and certainly when you look at this schedule, opening at home with Mexico and finishing at home with Costa Rica, it’s a good test.”
Playing the U.S. away will put a lot of pressure on Mexico coach Sven-Goran Eriksson to get a least a point after his team only picked up point in the travels in the last round of CONCACAF qualifying. Not helping Eriksson will be the fact that the U.S. has not lost at home to Mexico in a World Cup qualifier since 1972,
The draw was not particularly favorable for the U.S. and not only must they open up against their biggest rival in the region in a warm weather state, but they never have any consecutive home dates.
After playing Mexico, the U.S. kicks off their away schedule of the qualifying campaign against El Salvador on March 28, and then returns home on April 1 to face Trinidad & Tobago.
The halfway point for the qualifying round takes place in June with the U.S. facing Costa Rica away on June 3 and then returning home to play host Honduras on June 6.
The second half of the qualifying campaign starts on August 12 with the U.S. traveling to Mexico, a place where they have never won (0-12-1), the lone draw coming Nov. 2, 1997, in Mexico City.
The U.S. then has two straight double dates, starting with El Salvador at home on September 5 before heading to Trinidad & Tobago on September 9.
The qualifying round then ends in October when the travels to Honduras on October 10 before returning home on October 14 to play Costa Rica.
The U.S. national team has reached a level of performance where we expect them to not only qualify for each World Cup, but we expect them to win their group also. Based upon how they have played in the preliminary rounds I see no reason why the U.S. should not top this group with at least 20 points.