2018 World Cup

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Pots for 2018 World Cup taking shape

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With the FIFA World Rankings for October released on Monday, these are the set of rankings which will be used to place the 32 qualified teams in pots for the 2018 World Cup draw in Moscow on December 1.

[ MORE: Seeds for Euro qualifying confirmed

How the tournament will look in Russia next summer is starting to take shape, but things are still a little undecided with nine places still up for grabs during the next international break in November.

With Pot 1 fully confirmed, Pot 2 is also looking incredibly strong with five of the eight teams confirmed and 2010 world champs Spain have been placed in the second spot.

Some tasty “Group of Death” scenarios could be set up and remember, teams from the same confederation cannot be drawn together, except from UEFA as two European teams can be drawn in the same groups for the World Cup due to 13 spots handed to UEFA.

Below is a look at how the four pots may well end up as we have assumed the highest-ranked teams will all qualify for the World Cup during the next international break when playoffs and the final round of games take place.

2018 World Cup pots (if the highest-ranked teams all prevail in playoffs/final round of games)

Pot 1: Russia, Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium, Poland, France

Pot 2: Spain, Peru*, Switzerland*, England, Colombia, Italy*, Mexico, Uruguay

Pot 3: Croatia*, Denmark*, Iceland, Costa Rica, Tunisia*, Egypt, Senegal*, Iran

Pot 4: DR Congo*, Serbia, Nigeria, Australia*, Japan, Panama, South Korea, Saudi Arabia

*denotes teams yet to qualify heading into playoffs/final round of games

Four different Group of Death scenarios
Germany, Spain, Egypt, Japan
Brazil, England, Senegal, Serbia
Argentina, Mexico, Croatia, Nigeria
Belgium, Colombia, Costa Rica, South Korea

World Cup playoff dates set for Honduras-Australia, Peru-New Zealand

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The interconfederation playoffs set to determine two more places in the 2018 World Cup have dates and locations.

While UEFA has to wait for Tuesday for its playoff draws, the schedule is in place for CONCACAF vs. AFC, and CONMEBOL versus Oceania.

[ VIDEO: Jermaine Jones’ fiery USMNT diatribe ]

And, yes, each of these posts carries a reminder that the U.S. will not headed for Russia, and stings us just as much as you.

Honduras (CONCACAF) vs. Australia (AFC)

Nov. 10 at San Pedro Sula
Nov. 15 at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium

Peru (CONMEBOL) vs. New Zealand (OFC)

Nov. 11 in Wellington, NZ
Nov. 15 at Lima’s Estadio Nacional

2018 World Cup Power Rankings – 9 months B.W.C.

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After the opening release of our 2018 World Cup power rankings, much has changed. Countries have been eliminated in heartbreaking fashion, while other teams assert their dominance over their federations.

All the spots have been decided except for the UEFA playoffs and the inter-continential playoffs, which leave just a few spots to be determined.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s 2018 World Cup coverage | USMNT | Premier League ]

According to our esteemed panelists — Joe Prince-WrightNicholas MendolaKyle BonnMatt ReedDan Karell and Andy Edwards — there is a clear talent gap between the top 10 teams and the rest of the nations. Meanwhile, there is a disagreement over what country is the most powerful in the world.

Germany has garnered the top spot, but it wasn’t by a lot. Brazil is right on their heels for the favorite heading into next year’s tournament, even dethroning the reigning World Champions on some lists. Overall, Europe claims four of the top five spots, South American teams find four countries in the top 10. Italy is the most iconic team to have fallen, now uncertain to make the tournament after finding itself in the UEFA playoffs thanks to its tough group.

Three teams who did not appear in last month’s edition find themselves with places at the table in Serbia, Iceland, and Croatia, while seven teams on the list were left off at least one panelist’s list, leaving uncertainty in the lower half of the table. Where do you think these countries fall, who was slighted, who is overrated, and who should have made the list?





1 (1)





2 (2)





3 (3)





4 (4)





5 (5)





6 (9)





7 (8)





8 (5)





9 (6)





10 (12)





11 (13)





12 (20)





13 (7)





14 (NR)





15 (NR)





16 (17)





17 (10)





18 (14)





19 (16)

Costa Rica




20 (NR)





With the USA out, who should you support at the World Cup?

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Two days on from the disaster in Trinidad and Tobago, I thought this would be easier to write: the USA will not be at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Damn. It still hurts. But it is, unfortunately, reality.

[ MORE: Latest USMNT news

With huge watch parties in streets, bars and even stadiums across the U.S. for the 2014 World Cup, none of that will happen next summer as fans across America cannot support their own team. What the heck do you do now?

It is simple: pick another team.

[ MORE: Was is impact of USA missing the World Cup? ] 

We know you’ll be watching every World Cup game religiously so you might as well have a team you really, really care about and also an extra reason to slam your desk super hard on a wet Tuesday morning throughout June and July is always helpful…

Here are some options on how to select your squad for the biggest show on earth next summer with 23 of the 32-team field currently confirmed.

1. Support your ancestors

This is America, so we know how closely we are connected to the nations our ancestors were from. With that in mind, England, Poland, Germany, Italy and plenty of South (Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay and maybe Peru) and Central American teams will be getting plenty of support in the USA next summer. Warning: get ready to be branded a bandwagon fan if you select the big European and South American nations…

2. Go for a plucky underdog so you’re not branded a “glory hunter” or “bandwagon fan”

What up, Iceland!? Nobody can accuse you of being a bandwagon fan because Iceland are the smallest-ever nation (population approx. 340,000) to ever qualify for the World Cup. Plus, doing the Viking thunderclap with tons of people is awesome. Other underdogs who are borderline hipster include Serbia, Northern Ireland (if they make it through their playoff) and Egypt. All great stories and all have a decent chance of causing upsets.

3. Dare I say, support the CONCACAF teams

Well, we can’t beat them so we might as well join them… There is a very valid argument that CONCACAF teams doing well at the 2018 World Cup would be huge for the region moving forward. Mexico will have a massive fanbase Stateside, while Costa Rica and Panama are both fun to watch and the latter fully fall into the underdog category at their first-ever World Cup. Fans of all three of the CONCACAF teams at the World Cup will be spread all over the U.S. so you can at least watch games with their fans and feel like you’re part of it. Sad face.

4. Pick a team because of a superstar player

A self-explanatory one, this:

Cristiano Ronaldo = Portugal
Lionel Messi = Argentina
Neymar = Brazil
Luis Suarez = Uruguay
Harry Kane = England
Gigi Buffon = Italy
David Silva = Spain
Eden Hazard = Belgium
Paul Pogba = France
James Rodriguez = Colombia
Robert Lewandowski = Poland

5. A random draw

Write the name of all 32 teams who qualify on separate pieces of papers and put them all in a hat, jumble them up, pick one and, bob’s your uncle. Come onnnnnn, Belgiummmmm!

US World Cup absence could have wide-ranging effects

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The 2018 World Cup will be a unique test of soccer’s appeal in the United States.

Will Americans still watch if their national team isn’t there? Fox is certainly hoping so.

The U.S. failed to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Russia when it lost at Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday night, and the effects of that defeat may be felt for quite some time. The team, and indeed the whole U.S. Soccer Federation, faces a period of soul searching – but broadcasters, sponsors and tournament organizers could also be impacted by the Americans’ absence.

Fox, which broadcasts next year’s World Cup, offered only a statement Wednesday – which did provide some insight as to how the network will likely promote a World Cup without the U.S.

“Last night’s World Cup qualifying results do not change FOX Sports’ passion for the world’s biggest sporting event,” the statement said. “While the U.S. was eliminated, the biggest stars in the world from Lionel Messi to Cristiano Ronaldo stamped their tickets to Russia on the same day, and will battle teams ranging from Mexico to England that have massive fan bases in America.”

Fans in the U.S. are familiar with stars like Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar. Top European club teams now have American followings, which suggests that soccer in the U.S. can withstand a short-term slump for the national team.

An estimated 26.5 million people in the U.S. watched Germany’s victory over Argentina in the 2014 World Cup final in Brazil, and the 2018 final figures to be a major draw as well. But a U.S.-Portugal match in the group stage of the 2014 tournament had 24.7 million viewers – and that’s the type of interest that might be absent from earlier games in 2018.

“It’s going to hurt a little bit,” said Austin Karp, an assistant managing editor of SportsBusiness Daily. “You’re not going to have any buildup there toward the summer, with the U.S. team playing either friendlies – or talk about how the U.S. team is going to do, promotion of the U.S. team on Fox properties like baseball or other spring stuff they might have. … The U.S. matches were some of the strongest audiences for ESPN-ABC the last couple of iterations of the tournament. The final will still be OK.”

Fox broadcast the Women’s World Cup in 2015, but next year will be its first time carrying the men’s tournament since winning U.S. English-language World Cup rights back in 2011. Now Fox’s 2018 tournament won’t have the Americans, and ratings for the 2022 event in Qatar could be affected by the fact that it is set to be held in November and December, instead of its usual calendar spot midway through the year.

The U.S. team’s failure to qualify for 2018 dented shares of Twenty-First Century Fox on Wednesday. The stock fell 66 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $26.11. But concerns over Fox’s outlook may be overblown, according to a report from Pivotal Research Group. According to the group’s study, the U.S. team accounted for about 20 percent of ESPN’s total viewing for the 2014 tournament – a significant figure but not an overwhelming one. Fox will certainly miss having the Americans in 2018, but the U.S. played only four games in Brazil last time.

“While it might make a difference for the lay viewer who is only going to watch the U.S. games, that’s just a small subset of the total viewing,” said Brian Wieser, a senior research analyst for Pivotal Research Group.

So the show must go on for broadcasters – and sponsors are trying to make the best of the situation as well.

“Like all American soccer fans we are disappointed the team will not be participating in the World Cup, but still recognize the huge growth opportunity for soccer in the U.S.,” said Ricardo Marques, a vice president of marketing for Budweiser. “As the official beer of the World Cup and a longtime FIFA partner, Budweiser will continue to tap into our fans’ passion for soccer here and globally.”

Over in Russia, meanwhile, the reaction to the U.S. ouster was muted. American fans have attended the World Cup in droves recently – over 200,000 tickets for games in Brazil were purchased by U.S. residents. FIFA said Tuesday that the U.S. was among the top 10 countries for ticket applications so far for 2018, along with other non-qualifiers like China and Israel. Some applications by U.S. residents are likely to have been made by supporters of other teams, such as Mexico.

Still, many in Russia focused instead on the failure to qualify of neighboring Ukraine, which had occasionally threatened to boycott the tournament over Russia’s backing for separatist groups in eastern Ukraine. Vyacheslav Koloskov, the Russian Football Union honorary president, said the United States’ absence was a missed opportunity to improve Russia-U.S. relations.

“The non-participation of the U.S. reduces the chances of players, and indirectly of American fans, to see the transformations taking place in our country,” he told Russian agency R-Sport.

Koloskov added that the U.S. team was “nothing special” and so its absence “won’t have any effect on our World Cup in a sporting sense.”

Follow Noah Trister at http://www.Twitter.com/noahtrister