CHICAGO (Friday, February 20, 2004) — The United States Futsal National Team has learned that it will face Honduras in a home-and-away series in the Preliminary Round of CONCACAF Qualifying as the 2004 Futsal Qualifying draw results for the North and UNCAF zones were released earlier this week. The exact dates and locations for the two matches are not yet determined, but CONCACAF requires the matches be played prior to May 31.
In the other two match-ups between Northern Zone and UNCAF representatives in the Preliminary Round, Canada will face Panama, and Mexico will square off against El Salvador. In each of the three series, the team with the most goals scored in their two matches will qualify for the eight-team CONCACAF Final Qualifying Tournament to be played in Costa Rica during the last two weeks of July.
In Costa Rica, the three winners will join up with the host Ticos, Cuba and three more qualifiers yet to be determined from the Caribbean Zone. The eight final teams will battle for the top two spots for qualification to the 2004 FIFA Futsal World Championship to be held in Chinese Taipei from Nov. 22-Dec. 12.
The U.S. will be looking to get back to the World Championship after not reaching the final tournament four years ago, when they finished in third place at the CONCACAF qualifying tournament in 2000. The U.S. had qualified for the first three FIFA Futsal World Championships (in 1989, 1992 and 1996), finishing in the top three twice. The U.S. earned a third-place finish at the inaugural World Championship in Holland in 1989 and a second place finish at the 1992 event in Hong Kong, but failed to advance out of their group in Spain in 1996.
Under the direction of head coach Keith Tozer, the U.S. won the 2003 Futsal Goal Cup held at the Anaheim Convention Center in December with CONCACAF rivals Mexico, Canada and Guatemala in attendance. The U.S. beat Canada 5-3 in their opening match, but fell to Guatemala 1-0 on an own goal in a hard fought match a day later. The U.S. bounced back against Mexico with a dominating 7-0 win, which combined with Canada pulling a 5-3 upset over Guatemala, gave the U.S. the championship.
Tozer, the winningest coach in U.S. indoor history with over 500 victories, has a mix of athletes from Major League Soccer (MLS), United Soccer League’s A-League and the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) to choose from for qualifying.
Futsal is a sport that is a derivative of soccer and played with five-man teams on a basketball style court, with no walls and a low bouncing ball, unlike the traditional sport of U.S. indoor soccer played with a six-man squads and walls. Great soccer super stars such as Pele, Zico and Ronaldo grew up playing the game and credit Futsal with developing their skills.