by Jerry Keys
The CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) qualifications for the 2014 World Cup are almost complete. Of the original thirty-five teams, six remain. Qualifying seeds were a bit different than in the qualifications for the 2010 World Cup. Four years ago, the top thirteen seeds received a first round bye. This time the top six seeds were given a bye to the third round and teams ranked seven to twenty-five a bye to Round two.
A majority of the teams seeded twenty-six to thirty-five were small islands in the Caribbean Sea. These ten teams played a home and away series (some games drawing only 100-150 spectators) in the Summer 2011. Round two consisted of six groups of four teams with the winner of each group advancing. Second round action took place in the Fall 2011. Round three included the top six seeds, United States, Mexico, Honduras, Jamaica, Costa Rica and Cuba.
Round three was three groups of four teams with the winner and runner-up advancing to the fourth round. Round three action took place in the Summer and Fall 2012. In the six round three games the United States compiled a 4-1-1 record. All three home games were victories and suffered their only loss at Jamaica and only draw at Guatemala. Five of the six teams given byes to Round three advanced, sixth ranked Cuba failed to advance; replaced by Panama.
Fourth round games began in February and will conclude in October. Each team plays the other five in a home and away series. Action is mull until next month.
The current standings are:
Panama 1-0-2; 5 points
Costa Rica 1-1-1; 4
United States 1-1-1; 4
Honduras 1-1-1; 4
Mexico 0-0-3; 3
Jamaica 0-1-2; 2
(three points for each win, one point for draw)
The U.S. defeated Costa Rica (home), received a draw with Mexico (away) and lost to Honduras (away). The seven remaining games for the U.S. are: June 7 at Jamaica, June 11 Panama, June 18 Honduras, September 6 at Costa Rica, September 10 Mexico, October 11 Jamaica and October 15 at Panama. Three of the six teams will advance to Cup play and the fourth will square off with the OFC (Oceania Football Confederation) winner, New Zealand, in a home and away series for a spot in Cup play.