Fresh off a 3-2 victory over Slovenia on Tuesday, the US Men’s National Team has learned its opponents for the semifinal round of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The Confederation of North, Central American, and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) has reached the semifinal round of its World Cup qualifying process, and the big fish have been thrown into the pond to swim with the minnows. Perennial World Cup participants like the US and Mexico have entered the fray, joining teams like Antigua and Barbuda, who have qualified for the semifinal round for the first time.
The United States is looking to qualify for its 7th consecutive World Cup, and will open its qualifying schedule at home against Antigua and Barbuda on June 8th, 2012. Landon Donovan and his US teammates will also face Jamaica and Guatemala in Group A.
Mexico headlines Group B, where Chicharito and company will face Costa Rica, Guyana, and El Salvador. Group C includes Canada, Honduras, Cuba, and Panama.
In the semifinal round that will run from June to October 2012, teams play two games (home and away) against each of the other teams in their group. The top two teams in each group at the end of their 6-game schedule advance to the final round of CONCACAF qualifying. Commonly known as the “Hexagonal” or simply the “Hex”, the final round of CONCACAF qualifying sees the teams play home and away against each of the other teams, for a total of 10 games. The top three teams in the final Hexagonal standings qualify automatically for the World Cup, while the fourth place team goes to a home-and-away playoff series against a team from Oceania.
Although the US has had mixed success during the first few months of new coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure, they will be confident going into the semifinal round, knowing that it would be a monumental upset for them to fail to reach the Hexagonal. Scoring three goals and winning against Slovenia was the perfect way to end 2011 and enter2012, where they will begin their long journey towards Brazil. ”We’re excited to know the beginning of our path to qualify for the World Cup,” commented Klinsmann to ussoccer.com after the semifinal round draw. ”We know it is going to be a great challenge. I am very pleased with the progress the team is making. There is a great spirit and a willingness to learn in this group, and I know that we will be ready.”