By Michelle Kaufman
The road to the 2014 Brazil World Cup included a brief stop on South Beach Wednesday night for a glitzy CONCACAF Hexagonal draw ceremony complete with women in gowns selecting small soccer balls from glass bowls.
Executives from the CONCACAF region – North and Central America and the Caribbean -- and representatives of the six national teams in contention gathered at the W Hotel for the event, which determined the pairings for the final round of qualifying. Matches will be held between February 6 and October 15, 2013.
Costa Rica,Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, and the United States are the six teams that advanced to the Hexagonal. Each team will play every other team twice – once at home, once away – for a total of 10 matches. The top three finishers earn berths to the 2014 World Cup. The fourth-place team enters a two-game intercontinental playoff against the winner of the Oceania region for a final spot.
The U.S. got a tough draw, with three of its first four matches on the road. They open at Honduras Feb. 6, play Costa Rica at home March 22, on the road at Mexico’s Azteca Stadium March 26, and at Jamaica June 7.
Their other six matches are at home June 11 against Panama, at home June 18 against Honduras, at Costa Rica Sept. 6, at home against Mexico Sept. 10, at home against Jamaica Oct. 11 and at Panama Oct. 15.
“Usually a team would like to have its first game at home, but if you don’t, you make the best of it,’’ said U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann. “If you get results on the
road, you are far more confident for your home games. It’s fine with me. We’ve
just got to be really sharp and focused and get the job done on the road in
difficult environments, which is what this region is about. We are looking
forward to playing at Honduras and will take it one game at a time. We are
excited to finally have our schedule. ‘’
Added U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati: “Honduras is a tough team, but the last time we played there, we won and qualified for the World Cup, so it’s got some pretty good memories for us.’’
The U.S. has qualified for the past six World Cups since 1990.
Unlike the other five teams, which play their matches at designated national stadiums, the U.S. team must now determine sites for its five home games. Gulati said 10 to 12 venues are being considered. Stadium size, time zone, fan demographics, field surface, and weather are among the considerations for home-field advantage. Miami’s Sun Life Stadium is not expected to be a site partly due to the warm climate, and also because it tends to attract opposing fans from
Central America and the Caribbean.