CHICAGO (November 5, 2003) — The U.S. will join 33 other teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean in the two-year process to qualify for the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany under a qualifying plan ratified by the CONCACAF Executive Committee on Monday (Nov. 4) in Miami. The proposed qualification plan will be submitted for final approval to the FIFA Executive Committee on Dec. 3 in Frankfurt, Germany.
The U.S. will begin qualifying play with a second round home-and-away series against a Caribbean nation on consecutive weekends in June. Those matches will be the first of 18 or 20 potential games across a year-and-a-half that the U.S. will have to play to earn their fifth consecutive trip to the World Cup finals.
The match-ups for the preliminary round and the second round will be determined at the qualifying draw on Dec. 5 in Frankfurt, Germany. Under this format, all qualifying matches will take place on FIFA international calendar dates.
For the preliminary round and second round, the 34 CONCACAF teams will be divided into 10 groups of three teams and two groups of two teams, with each of these 12 groups containing one seeded team. In addition to the United States, the other 11 seeded teams are: Barbados, Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, St. Vincent & Grenadines, and Trinidad & Tobago. None of these teams can face each other in the preliminary round, and the United States also cannot face either Nicaragua or Belize, the two remaining teams from Central America, who will begin play in the second round.
The preliminary round will see 20 teams from the Caribbean region playing home-and-away series scheduled for February 18 and March 31. The winner of those matches, based on aggregate goals, will play the seeded team drawn into their group in a second round home-and-away series to be contested June 12/13 and June 19/20. Each of the 12 winners of those final series, based on aggregate goals, will advance to the semifinal round.
Lots will be drawn to determine the home and away order of both preliminary rounds following the Draw.
The semifinal round will take place from August to November of 2004, with the teams divided into three groups of four teams each. Playing a six-game round robin format, the top two finishers from each group will advance to the final six-team group that will be played from February through October 2005.
Once again played in a round robin format of 10 games, the top three teams from the six-team group will automatically advance to the 2006 World Cup. The fourth-place finisher will meet the fifth-place team from Asia in a home-and-away playoff in November 2005 for the final berth in the finals.
The United States has appeared in seven World Cup finals since the tournament began in 1930. The U.S. team’s performance reached a pinnacle during the 2002 FIFA World Cup, as the United States advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time in 72 years, winning its first-ever match in the knockout phase by defeating Mexico 2-0 in the Round of 16 in Jeonju, Korea.
February 18 – Leg 1
March 31 – Leg 2
-- 10 home-and-away series (total goals)
-- 20 Caribbean countries: Aruba, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Grenada, Guyana, Montserrat, Netherlands Antilles, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts & Nevis, Surinam, Turks & Caicos, U.S. Virgin Islands
June 12-13 – Leg 1
June 19-20 – Leg 2
-- 12 home-and-away series (total goals)
-- 10 winners of Preliminary Round pairings
-- 2 Central American countries (Nicaragua and Belize)
-- 12 previously seeded teams (as Semifinal Round qualifiers in 2002): Barbados, Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, St. Vincent and Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago, USA
August 18 – Game 1
September 4-5 – Game 2
September 8 – Game 3
October 9-10 – Game 4
October 13 – Game 5
November 17 – Game 6
-- 3 four-team groups, top two teams in each group advance
-- 12 winners of Second Round home-and-away series advance to semis
-- As finalists at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, Costa Rica, Mexico and the United States will be in separate groups, should they advance this far
February 9 – Game 1
March 26-27 – Game 2
March 30 – Game 3
June 4-5 – Game 4
June 8 – Game 5
August 17 – Game 6
September 3-4 – Game 7
September 7 – Game 8
October 8-9 – Game 9
October 12 – Game 10
-- 1 six-team group, top three teams advance to 2006 World Cup, and fourth-place team advances to playoff against Asian team
-- top six finishers in Semifinal Round advance to Final Round