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North and South Korea to meet in 2022 World Cup qualifiers

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) North Korea and South Korea have been drawn together in an Asian qualifying group for soccer’s 2022 World Cup.

The Korean neighbors will play each other home and away in the five-nation Group H that includes Lebanon, Turkmenistan and Sri Lanka. Saudi Arabia and Yemen were also paired in Wednesday’s draw that involved 40 national teams and some political sensitivities. The Saudis, which played at the 2018 World Cup, are top-seeded in Group D that also has Uzbekistan, Palestine and Singapore.

Top-ranked Iran was drawn with neighboring Iraq, plus Bahrain, Hong Kong and Cambodia, in Group C.

United Arab Emirates is top-seeded in a Group G loaded with Southeast Asian derbies, involving Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Australia, which plays in the Asian soccer confederation, will play Jordan, Taiwan, Kuwait and Nepal in Group B.

World Cup host Qatar also plays as this group stage doubles up as qualifiers for the 2023 Asian Cup being played in China. Qatar will play Oman, India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh in Group E.

China is in Group A with Syria, Philippines, Maldives and Guam. Japan is in Group F with Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Myanmar and Mongolia.

The eight groups play from September through June.

Group winners and the four best runners-up advance to another group stage, played from September 2020 to October 2021. Those 12 teams also qualify for the 2023 Asian Cup.

Four Asian teams will qualify directly for the World Cup. A fifth nation can advance to Qatar in an intercontinental playoff round in March 2022.

Explaining CONCACAF’s new World Cup qualification format

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So, CONCACAF have changed the way teams will qualify for the 2022 World Cup and in a word it is, complicated.

In short, this system will benefit the big boys.

Did this format really need changing?

The governing body for soccer in North and Central America and the Caribbean released the new format on Wednesday and there was then plenty of confusion among fans across the region as to what all this means.

With the CONCACAF Nations League kicking off this fall, there are plenty of changes in the region and the main theme throughout all of these alterations is to give more meaningful international games and give extra incentives for smaller nations to not only qualify for big tournaments, but play qualifiers against some of the bigger nations.

Still, when it comes to the new World Cup qualification format, things get clouded a little.

This is where we come in. Here’s an explanation of the changes and what they actually mean.


  • Based on their FIFA rankings after the game window in June 2020, the top six teams in the CONCACAF region will compete in the final round of World Cup qualifying, the Hexagonal.
  • Hex matches will take place across September, October and November of 2020 and March and September of 2021.
  • The top three teams from the Hex standings will qualify automatically for the 2022 World Cup.
  • In June 2020 the second part of qualifying will begin. CONCACAF teams ranked 7-35 according to their FIFA ranking will take part in a group stage and knockout round.
  • The 29 teams will be divided into five groups of four teams and three groups of three teams, with the games taking place in September, October and November of 2020.
  • The first-place teams in each of the eight groups will qualify for the knockout round.
  • Quarterfinals, semifinals and final matches of the knockout round will be played in home-and-away direct elimination format during March, June and September 2021.
  • Winner of the knockout phase will then play the fourth-place team from the Hex in a home-and-away playoff in October 2021.
  • The winner of the CONCACAF playoff will then play in FIFA’s Intercontinental playoff for a place in the World Cup.

Okay, so you’ve grabbed some aspirin after your lie down. Are you still with us?

This new format is great news for the USMNT, Mexico and Costa Rica. As for Honduras, Panama, Trinidad & Tobago and Jamaica, they know if they finish in fifth and sixth place in the Hex will not have to take part in a huge group stage and knockout round competition.

But the team who finish in fourth now know they aren’t heading straight for FIFA’s Intercontinental playoff for a place in the World Cup.

Adding an extra playoff round to determine who represents CONCACAF in the Intercontinental playoff seems a little bit much but it does give plenty of the smaller nations in the region hope that they can go on a fairytale run in the second part of qualifying, then beat the fourth-place team from the Hex, then an Intercontinental playoff to reach the 2022 World Cup.

Easy, right?

The upcoming Nations League games now have extra significance as wins for the likes of Canada and El Salvador will push them towards the Hex.

Judging on their displays at the Gold Cup this summer, Curacao and Haiti are also two teams who will certainly fancy their chances of making the most of this new long and winding route towards potential World Cup qualification.

This is complex, but overall it gives some chances to the smaller CONCACAF nations as well as keeping the status quo.

Senator introduces USWNT equal pay bill after letter from NCAA coach

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A letter from the women’s soccer coach at West Virginia University has spurred a politician to act on behalf of the United States women’s national team.

The Mountaineers’ head coach for nearly a quarter century, Nikki Izzo-Brown wrote the missive to senator Joe Manchin following the USWNT’s fourth World Cup title, and Manchin is taking a political step in response.

[ MORE: Takeaways from USWNT win ]

Manchin has introduced a bill on the Senate floor which says federal funding for hosting the 2026 World Cup will be withheld until the USWNT is paid on equal terms with the men.

According to a Huffington Post report, the money would normally go to host cities, U.S. Soccer, CONCACAF, and FIFA.

Here’s Manchin (from NBC News):

“The clear unequitable pay between the U.S. men’s and women’s soccer teams is unacceptable and I’m glad the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team latest victory is causing public outcry,” Senator Manchin said. “They are the best in the world and deserve to be paid accordingly.”

Many noted the “equal pay” chants at the World Cup final, and the USWNT has been trying to force the issue for some time.

The other part of this is that the USWNT is believed to currently be in negotiations with the federation about equal pay, and 2026 is a long way in the future. Also, it would seem likely the bill would be deemed a political ploy in the Senate, but hey, it’s something.

The news comes on the night that USWNT star Megan Rapinoe is making the rounds on several national news programs including MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.”

VIDEO: Watch USWNT lift the World Cup trophy

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The USWNT are the 2019 World Cup champions after beating the Netherlands 2-0 in Lyon, France on Sunday.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned

Second half goals from Megan Rapinoe (from the penalty spot) and Rose Lavelle did the job for Jill Ellis’ side, as they became just the second team to complete back-to-back World Cup wins and they stretch their number of World Cup titles to four all-time, two more than any other nation.

[ MORE: USWNT player ratings

Ellis is also the first women’s coach in history to win consecutive titles, as her legacy as one of the greatest coaches in the women’s game is now cemented in the history books.

[ MORE: Latest 2019 World Cup news ]

Watch the U.S. lift the trophy in the video below, as they celebrated with their huge fanbase who followed them throughout the summer in France.

Player ratings: USWNT v. Netherlands

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The USWNT beat the Netherlands 2-0 in the Women’s World Cup final on Sunday in Lyon, as Jill Ellis become the first coach in history to win back-to-back World Cups.

[ MORE: Latest 2019 World Cup news ]

There were plenty of dominant performances from the U.S. women’s national team, but a few stood out above the rest as a star was born and veterans stood tall.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Below is a look at the player ratings for the USWNT from the final.


Alyssa Naeher: 7 – Solid enough. Came off her line well in the first half. Didn’t have much to do.

Kelley O’Hara: 6 – Reliable at right back but a nasty head collision saw her taken off at half time.

Abby Dahlkemper: 6 – Still a little shaky and was caught out and booked in the first half. Got better throughout the tournament.

Becky Sauerbrunn: 7 – Took a nasty knock to the head but held the US defense together.

Crystal Dunn: 8 – Another brilliant display at left back and could have scored late on.

Julie Ertz: 8 – The glue that holds this USWNT team together. Superb defensive leader. Great tournament. Almost scored in first half.

Rose Lavelle: 9 – Her fine solo goal capped off a fine display and tournament. The newest USWNT star.

Sam Mewis: 7 – Went close with a header in the first half and proved she deserved to start over Horan.

Tobin Heath: 7 – Never stopped running and caused so many problems for the defense.

Alex Morgan: 6 – Went down easily in the box in the first half. Battled hard and won the PK. Not her best tournament.

Megan Rapinoe: 6 – She scored the penalty kick, whipped in a good cross in the first half and was named the official woman of the match, but again, a pretty quiet game.

Substitutes
Ali Kireger : 6 – Very solid at right back after replacing the injured O’Hara at half time.
Christen Press: 6 – Late cameo saw her open up the Dutch defense on a few occasions.
Carli Lloyd: 6 – Some trademark surging runs after coming off the bench in what could be her last USWNT game.