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U.S. Men's Qualifying Route to 2006 World Cup Presented by CONCACAF; Awaits FIFA Ratification

NEW YORK, N.Y. (Friday, February 7, 2003) - CONCACAF will present a new qualifying format for the FIFA World Cup Germany 2006 for approval by FIFA. The new format was approved at the meeting of its Executive Committee at the offices of the General Secretariat in New York City on Friday, and will see the U.S. enter into the first phase of qualifying, where previously they had gone straight into the semifinals.  With the new format each team will play upwards to 20 games to qualify for the next World Cup.

After reviewing several formats for CONCACAF qualifying to FIFA World Cup 2006, the Executive selected a plan that calls for the following:

All CONCACAF member national associations will enter at the first phase, with teams in either one of the 11 three-team or one two-team, home and away, round robin series beginning in Spring 2004.

The teams would be separated into four pots for the draw, which will be conducted by FIFA at a later date. The three CONCACAF representatives to FIFA World Cup 2002, Costa Rica, Mexico and the USA, would be placed in Pot A; Honduras, Trinidad & Tobago and Jamaica, the teams placed fourth through sixth in the final group during the last qualifying cycle, in Pot B.

Meanwhile, Pot C would consist of Barbados, Canada, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, all of whom reached the semifinal round of qualifying to Korea/Japan 2002, while Pot D would be comprised of the remaining 23 national associations entering in the competition.

Having all teams enter at the first phase guarantees each of a minimum of four qualifying matches (with the exception of those in the two-team group), as opposed to two in previous World Cup cycles.

The winners of each initial round robin tie will advance to one of three groups of four teams apiece, once again to be played in a home-and-home round-robin format.

The teams finishing in first and second in each four-team group at the second phase are qualified to the final phase, which will be a group of six teams to determine the CONCACAF representatives at FIFA World Cup Germany 2006.

The top three finishers in the final group are automatically qualified to the finals, with the fourth place team to meet the fifth-placed team from the Asian Football Confederation in a playoff to determine the last berth at Germany 2006.

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