After a long and grueling trek through World Cup qualifying, the United States of America has made the World Cup. After missing out on the event in 2018, this is a huge moment for the team and the country. The next step after qualifying was to find out which group they would be in and what other teams would be in the group with them. That step was completed on Friday morning when the World Cup draw was revealed.
The US got a pretty good draw when all was said and done. They were in the second of four pots, meaning they would most likely be grouped with one of the powers of international soccer unless they were drawn into group A and host country Qatar. USA ended up in group B with England, and it could have been a lot worse.
England is currently ranked fifth in the FIFA rankings which means the US could have gotten drawn with four better teams. They avoided Brazil, Germany, France, and Argentina, which are all ranked higher than England. There is also a bit of familiarity between the USA and England (and no, I’m not talking about the Revolutionary War and all that stuff). In 2010 these teams were also in the same group and played to a draw USA finished on top of the group thanks to Landon Donovan’s late goal against Algeria, so maybe being grouped with England is good luck for the Americans.
England and the US were joined in group B by Iran and the eventual winner of the Euro playoff (Wales will play the winner of Scotland and Ukraine in June with the winner going to the World Cup). We won’t be able to fully analyze the group in its entirety until that playoff is completed but there are some things we can take away from the draw.
The first is that there are some teams that the US was lucky to avoid in the draw. Senegal (with Sadio Mane), Ghana (which has left a bad taste in USA soccer fans thanks to a knockout round loss in 2010), and Poland (with Robert Lewandowski and his incredible goal-scoring ability) were some of the more dangerous teams that could have ended up in the group. Iran may be a solid soccer team (not to mention a country with a tenuous relationship with the USA) but I am not as worried about them as I would be about some other teams.
That brings me to the Euro playoff scenario. We won’t know for a few months who exactly will join the group but my guess is that it will be Wales. They are the highest-ranked of the three teams (18th compared to 27 for Ukraine and 39 for Scotland). If Garreth Bale is paying at the top of his game then Wales could be a very dangerous team in the group, granted they make it out of the playoff. If Ukraine is able to overcome a lot of off-the-pitch drama and win the playoff it would be a sports movie come to life. If Scotland wins the playoff then the US will have gotten pretty lucky. Scotland doesn’t have the talent that some of the other teams have but if they beat Ukraine and Wales then clearly they are better than expected.
Unfortunately, we will have to wait until November to see these teams actually step on the pitch in Qatar but at least it feels a little bit closer now. We have eight long months to speculate and prognosticate about the US’s matches. When November 21 finally hits and the USMNT kicks off against the winner of the Euro playoff, our patience will be rewarded, and the wait will be over. And at that time the US will officially begin its pursuit of the World Cup and international glory.