The road to the 2006 World Cup for the United States has been finalized, and it begins with two tests on the road and ends with a tough run of matches that could leave the Nats shy of its goal
The draw for CONCACAF’s “Hexagonal”, the final round of qualification, was held in Zurich this morning. Perhaps not the kindest of draws, the U.S. will not have the kind of cold-weather advantage it did in 2001 when it played Mexico in Columbus.
The U.S. was drawn at “number six”, meaning they will start in February away to Trinidad and Tobago. The February 9th match is the first of ten in the round-robin format, and the encounter against the Soca Warriors may be the best chance for the national team to take three points on the road. Travel will be a huge concern in this round, with no consecutive home games on four occasions when match days coincide in four-day windows.
Next up will be a trip to arch rival Mexico on the weekend of March 26-27, the first of four back-to-back matchdays in 2005 that will include games on the weekend and the following Wednesday. Usually, the Mexican national team plays its matches in the Azteca in Mexico City, but reports out of the country have the U.S. game potentially taking place in Toluca instead at high altitude. Following that is the first home match on March 30th against Guatemala, which could be the wild card in the final group.
After a full two-month break, the U.S. resumes their quest in June with a pair of matches at home against Costa Rica on the weekend of the 4th-5th and a trip to Panama on the 8th. August 17th has the U.S. hosting Trinidad and Tobago, and September has the home showdown against Mexico Labor Day Weekend followed by an away match against Guatemala on the 7th.
The road possibly ends in October over four days; the Saprissa in San Jose, Costa Rica calls on the weekend of the 8th-9th, while the final qualification match is scheduled for the 12th at home against Panama. The away game against Costa Rica could be a vital necessity, and perhaps the toughest surroundings on CONCACAF will be calling in that next-to-last qualifying match.
Original Article written by Aris Ohanessian