The US is playing El Salvador in Utah on September 5th, followed by a game on the road four days later in Trinidad. And the US finds itself in a bit of dogpile, with Honduras and Costa Rica ahead of them, with Mexico nipping at their heels. No one wants to finish 4th in the CONCACAF, because that squad has to play the 5th best team in South American (CONMEBOL) qualifying, and there is a chance that could be Argentina, of all teams.
Now I could go into how the World Cup isn't about assembling the top 64 teams to play in a tournament; how FIFA has determined that assembling teams from all across the world is better for world-wide ratings than having 40 teams from Europe, 10 from Asia, 10 from South America and 4 from Africa compete every year. Because if they were honest, that's probably how it would shake out most times. I'm not going to get into that. I'm only going to say that by separating North America and South America into separate components, they are trying to give the US and Mexican teams every chance they can to qualify.
It is the system, and by it is designed to have the the US and Mexico successfully make the World Cup Finals. Everyone knows this. EVERYONE knows this. So it rankles me when I see US Head Coach (clock ticking on that title) Bob Bradley saying, "As we expected, qualifying in this region is very competitive. Both El Salvador and Trinidad & Tobago will be hungry to get points from these matches, and we have an opportunity to position ourselves well to secure a berth for South Africa.”
Who expected this region to be competitive? I know I didn't. I figured--Mexico, US, and then some other team, thrown in as a bone that would get rocked by a bunch of teams better than it, and head home proud to qualify--Costa Rica or Honduras. I certainly did not expect the US and Mexico fighting for the last spot of automatic qualifying in September, but here we are.
If everything goes to plan, the US will easily capture 6 points in its next two matches, but things have not gone according to plan a disheartening amount during this qualifying season. These six points would normally be a given, but given the track record of the US squad of late, it isn't as guaranteed as it should be.
But make no mistake--it shouldn't be an issue at all. Winning games in the Gold Cup and Confederations Cup are nice and all, but they don't contribute to our chances to qualify. World Cup Qualifiers are the games to win, and the US has games to win--games that shouldn't be pivotal, but are, because of their ineptitude in prior matches. If the US doesn't beat El Salvador in Salt Lake City on September 5th, expect a firing.