Should the U.S. Men’s National Team qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, they may end up in another so-called “Group of Death.”
FIFA confirmed on Thursday that it will use October’s FIFA World Rankings to sort the 32 qualifying nations into four pots, with the top seven-ranking teams plus Russia landing in pot 1. Pots two through four will be filled in descending order by the rest of the qualified nations.
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This is different than in previous years, where the top seven teams made pot one and the rest of the pots were organized by region.
As of September’s world rankings, which was released Thursday as well, the USMNT sits in 28th place. Of teams that have qualified for the World Cup, only Japan (40), South Korea (51) and Saudi Arabia (53) are ranked worse than the USMNT. Host Russia is ranked 64th.
The current top seven ranked nations by FIFA are Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium, Poland, and Switzerland.
The U.S. Men’s National Team faces arguably its toughest opponent left in the Hex as Costa Rica makes its way north.
Friday’s match at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey sets up a rematch with revenge and booking a World Cup ticket on the mind for the U.S., and earning a triumphant sweep over the USMNT on the other side.
[ READ: USMNT vs. Costa Rica Preview ]
Following the Gold Cup, this is the first time Bruce Arena has had his full selection of players available, and even with a pair of injuries on the backline, the veteran coach has most of the USMNT’s top players available. At the same time, even with Joel Campbell missing from action, Costa Rica brings one of its strongest squads, setting up a great battle in the shadows of New York City.
Here’s a look at three key battles on the field to keep an eye on in tonight’s USMNT vs. Costa Rica match:
Cameron Carter-Vickers will have a chance to play first-team football this season. It just won’t be with Tottenham.
The club announced on Friday that the U.S. Under-20 international centerback had signed a new deal with the club through 2020 and had been sent on loan to Championship club Sheffield United.
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The 19-year-old had made the bench for Tottenham’s Premier League opener at Newcastle but with the signing of Davinson Sanchez, Carter-Vickers’ possible playing time went from slim to very slim.
Sheffield United meanwhile were promoted to the Championship after finishing first in League One last season. Moving to the busy and physical Championship should be a good move for Carter-Vickers, where he can get regular playing time before trying to break into the Tottenham first team next season.
“Cameron is young, athletic and highly-rated by Tottenham and we’re delighted we’ve been trusted to continue his development,” Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder said. “He is a central defender with a good attitude and adds competition for places in that area. I like the way Tottenham play and it’s clear that Cameron has the ability to be a very good player.”
Carter-Vickers has played the last three years for the U.S. Under-20 MNT, starting in each of the last two FIFA Under-20 World Cups. Carter-Vickers was on the bench for the U.S. Men’s National Team’s 4-0 loss at Costa Rica, the last game under the leadership of Jurgen Klinsmann.
As a dual national, Carter-Vickers is still eligible to play for his birth country of England, though it looks like he’s in the USMNT plans for the future.
With the 2017 Gold Cup just two days away, it’s time to take a closer look at this year’s participants.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Gold Cup coverage ]
Group B includes one of the tournament favorites, the U.S. Men’s National Team, along with Panama, Martinique and Nicaragua.
Here’s what you need to know ahead of the start of the tournament:
U.S. Men’s National Team debutant Kenny Saief’s CONCACAF Gold Cup is over before it even began.
U.S. Soccer announced Wednesday that Saief suffered a groin injury in the time since making his debut Saturday in the USMNT’s 2-1 friendly victory over Ghana and has been replaced on the Gold Cup roster by Philadelphia Union midfielder Chris Pontius.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s 2017 Gold Cup coverage ]
The outside midfielder, who plays a similar position to Saief, has six assists in 17 Major League Soccer games this season and made his first two USMNT appearances this past January and February in friendly matches against Serbia and Jamaica.
The news is a blow to the American-born and Israeli-raised Saief, who recently completed his one-time FIFA switch to play for the USMNT after making a pair of appearances in friendly matches for Israel.
Meanwhile it’s a boost to Pontius, who is enjoying some of his best soccer since overcoming a number of injury-riddled seasons with D.C. United.