WARSAW -- Three thoughts on the U.S.' 1-1 tie at Guatemala on Tuesday, which moved the U.S. into pole position in its semifinal-round World Cup qualifying group with four points, followed by Jamaica (four with less goal differential), Guatemala (one) and Antigua and Barbuda (one).
The long qualifying road to World Cup 2014 starts on Friday in Tampa for the U.S. men's national team, and while the first semifinal-round opponent (tiny Antigua and Barbuda) shouldn't provide much resistance, there's always a danger in taking World Cup qualifying for granted. The U.S. is one of only seven nations to reach the last six World Cups -- along with Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Italy, South Korea and Spain -- and at least 16 qualifying games over the next 17 months stand between the Yanks and Brazil 2014. As always, there are no guarantees.
Just as it was last season, the MLS West appears to be the healthier of the two conferences, containing the past three MLS Cup champions:
VANCOUVER, B.C. -- You could call it Fantastic Friday for fans of U.S. Soccer: two games, one men's and one women's, separated by thousands of miles, that for different reasons carry a great deal of significance.
Held in 13 U.S. cities last summer, the CONCACAF Gold Cup drew a record attendance of 601,702, including 93,420 at the Rose Bowl for Mexico's 4-2 victory over the U.S. in the final. But the region's most important soccer tournament attracted something else too: Allegations of match-fixing. "There has been information that some matches in the Gold Cup were manipulated," FIFA head of security Chris Eaton confirmed to SI.com. "We worked with CONCACAF at the time, and CONCACAF have been very interested in following up any information that can be revealed in the future on that."
The U.S. takes on CONCACAF rival Costa Rica at the Home Depot Center in Jurgen Klinsmann's second game at the helm. Join Avi Creditor and SI staff for live play-by-play analysis of the game starting on Friday at 10:30 p.m. ET.
The 'Bag (soccer version) is back, and we'll start this week with a question from @WillEhrenfeld: "Will Robbie Keane be an effective scorer for L.A.? And does his addition make the Galaxy clear favorites going forward?"
Even with the tonnage of analysis on how Jurgen Klinsmann might spice up the U.S. national team stew, the rest of the soccer world just keeps on spinning.
From an unfortunate postponement in Vancouver to stout goalkeeping around the league, here are five thoughts from Saturday's early MLS games ...
HOUSTON -- Things are lining up brilliantly for a U.S. soccer team still looking to put things right after some unappealing results. In the Twitter universe, you'd hashtag this one #WeekOfRedemption.
World soccer's governing body FIFA have confirmed that vice president Jack Warner has resigned from his position within the organization.
With the resignation of Jack Warner, FIFA announces all ethics committee procedures against him are closed.
The United States needs a win or a tie against tiny but tenacious Guadeloupe to advance in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
When it comes to advancing out of the first round, into elimination play, the CONCACAF Gold Cup format is almost comically forgiving. Teams play three first round matches, an exercise that serves to eliminate only 4 of 12 nations before quarterfinal play.
The United States must beat Guadeloupe on Tuesday to guarantee a quarterfinal place at the Gold Cup, having suffered a shock first group-stage defeat in the CONCACAF region tournament.
One more win should seal the deal as the U.S. seeks a Gold Cup second round spot, but it may not come easily Saturday in Florida against a stubborn, experienced and defensively strong Panamanian team.
Five storylines to follow as the CONCACAF Gold Cup kicks off Sunday:
The e-mails and Twitter questions kept pouring in this week: Why was the U.S. Soccer Federation staying radio silent on the shenanigans at FIFA? Why didn't U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati take the moral high ground and publicly back England's call to postpone Wednesday's FIFA presidential election amid corruption investigations at world soccer's highest levels? And was the U.S. actually voting for incumbent FIFA president Sepp Blatter?
From the Gold Cup's effect on MLS rosters to Philadelphia's six-spot at BMO Field, here are five thoughts from Saturday's MLS action ...
Less than three weeks before FIFA's presidential election, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati revealed the U.S. will not be told how to vote by CONCACAF president Jack Warner, the most powerful figure in the U.S.' home confederation.
From a national perspective the next two Saturdays are big for MLS and ESPN television, which are pinning high expectations on a pair of marquee rivalry games: this Saturday's Los Angeles-New York showdown (11 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes) and the following Saturday's first MLS edition of the Seattle-Portland Flannel Hatefest (11 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes).
Now Real Salt Lake fans know what it feels like: that awful feeling in the pit of your stomach when your beloved team has moved mountains to reach the brink of history, only to falter at the last step, with glory so tantalizingly close. Salt Lake was there on Wednesday, one final, manageable summit push from reaching the pinnacle of club soccer on the continent: the CONCACAF Champions League title.
Three thoughts after Real Salt Lake's 1-0 loss to Monterrey on Wednesday gave the Mexican team a 3-2 aggregate triumph in the CONCACAF Champions League final:
Monterrey claimed the CONCACAF Champions League title as Humberto Suazo's goal in first half stoppage time gave them a 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake in the second leg of the final Wednesday night.
In the summer of 2007, a desperate rookie coach dropped everything in the middle of the MLS season and flew to Argentina in search of a future. Real Salt Lake manager Jason Kreis was just 34, his team was in last place and he needed a major talent upgrade. But could he risk everything by signing a midfielder he'd never seen play in person before?
Mailbag time this week. Let's dive in:
The CONCACAF Champions League's chief imperfection may be the awkward gap separating group play and quarterfinal action, which begins this week.
With all of the business decisions that continue to take place in the Women's Professional Soccer offseason, it is easy to forget about the players. The past few months in women's soccer have been wild. The U.S. Women's national team was the last team to qualify for the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup after losing to Mexico in CONCACAF qualifying and barely beating Italy in a playoff. On top of that, WPS recently spent two weeks in limbo as teams scrambled to secure finances for the 2011 season.
They're killing the most important rivalry in American soccer.
I figured it was time for a soccer Mailbag, so the 'Bag (that's me) decided to put one together for this week's Planet Fútbol column. Let's dig in:
Five things we learned from the first round of CONCACAF Champions League group play, which wrapped up Thursday.
It might seem easy to try to compare first-place FC Gold Pride to the 2009 Los Angeles Sol, but do not fall for the trap.
Mexican teams are kings of the CONCACAF hill when it comes to its regional Champions League, the annual competition (formerly the CONCACAF Champions Cup) that carries a smidge of weight with the clubs, but just marginal interest from hardcore supporters and practically zero resonance in the general sports market.
Nearly two weeks have passed since the groups for the World Cup draw were announced, and Mexico's daunting initial challenge hasn't lessened in its enormity:
A dramatic final night of World Cup qualifying has seen all of the 32 places decided with European powerhouses France and Portugal going through.
The final 32 for next summer's World Cup finals will become a bit clearer after this weekend's round of qualifying matches -- with four of the nine remaining places available for South Africa 2010 to be determined over the next 48 hours.
The group stage of the 2009-10 CONCACAF Champions League is over, and there are a handful of strange lingering sensations. The tournament won't resume until next year, and there's a sense of longing and impatience with that. It was an enjoyable spectacle for fans throughout CONCACAF; that the quarterfinals won't get underway until March is a bit disappointing.
In its most trying year since 2001, Mexico survived and came out stronger at the end because of it. By the midway point of the CONCACAF Hexagonal, El Tri had lost three World Cup qualifiers and fired its coach as panic was entrenched in the country. But Mexico went 4-0-1 down the stretch and wound up qualifying with relative ease after all was said and done.
Some of the world's top footballers remained eligible -- barely -- to compete in next year's World Cup after tense matches late Wednesday in Europe and South America.
ARLINGTON, Va. -- This was not how the U.S. soccer team had intended to follow up its newly won World Cup berth. This was not how rising-star forward Charlie Davies had hoped to become a trending topic on Twitter.
Mexico and the United States will be going to the 2010 World Cup finals after winning their penultimate matches in CONCACAF qualifying on Saturday night.
Mexico is back, or so the Hexagonal table says. El Tri needs just one win to get into South Africa 2010 and complete its remarkable comeback. A win over El Salvador on Saturday (6 p.m. ET, Telemundo), combined with other results, could catapult Mexico into first place, and it could remain there until the final round of CONCACAF qualifying ends on Oct. 14.
June 6 was so long ago. On that night in San Salvador, a team wearing white, calling itself Mexico, went down to hosts El Salvador 2-1. The result slid Mexico into fifth place in the Hexagonal, and the possibility of missing out on South Africa seemed real.
Mexico and the United States both secured narrow 1-0 victories in their North and Central America and Caribbean (CONCACAF) zone games to maintain their momentum towards qualification for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- There are times, when you sit and talk for more than hour with U.S. coach Bob Bradley, that you wonder if he's a sort of soccer version of Rain Man.
Jonathan Spector laughs when asked about the father of one of his close friends, who also happens to coach the U.S. national team.
Here comes another round of international competition for three MLS teams, all of which aspire to lift the league trophy in November. Four-time MLS champion D.C. United and defending champ Columbus Crew open CONCACAF Champions League group play Tuesday against Honduran club Marathón and USL-1 upstart Puerto Rico Islanders, respectively. Houston, MLS Cup winner in 2006 and '07, plays Isidro Metapán of El Salvador Wednesday.
MEXICO CITY -- As fate would have it, Landon Donovan scored his first international goal against Mexico, in a 2-0 friendly win in 2000. Unsurprisingly, he's been reviled down here ever since.
In a tournament that screamed for a new champion, the status quo won out. The U.S. and Mexico once again are facing each other in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final, and for the second consecutive time, the two hated rivals will battle it out for regional supremacy.
In the context of the U.S. national team's glittering performance at the Confederations Cup last month and Oguchi Onyewu's lustrous move to AC Milan on Tuesday, the CONCACAF Gold Cup just doesn't seem that shiny, does it? It's more like a pewter mug: It obviously carries some heft -- this is the continental championship, after all -- but you won't get much for it down at the Acme Pawn Shop.
Our weekly dose of Major League Soccer quick takes, plotlines to watch and Power Rankings.
On the face, the task for the U.S. national team is simple: Start off defense of your Gold Cup title with a Fourth of July match in Seattle against one of the smallest nations in CONCACAF. Except that things work differently in CONCACAF, and though the days of guest competitors from other confederations and the wrong national anthems being played are things of the past, hopefully, just a few days before the tournament began came news of a curious development.
After drawing the attention of the world with its stunning run to the Confederations Cup final, the U.S. national team immediately turns its focus to the CONCACAF Gold Cup, where it begins its defense of its North and Central American title on July 4.
Just when MLS teams have hit their stride and have found some sort of cohesion, is it really a good time for a break? And not six weeks after the end of one season, Mexican league clubs are supposed to hit full throttle with new-look rosters?
Contrary to popular belief, there's a very good reason for U.S. coach Bob Bradley not to rely on every MLS player who might be playing well when it comes to assembling a squad for Hexagonal qualifiers. In many cases, they don't measure up.
CHICAGO -- A U.S. team, meticulously prepared and riding a wave of confidence, marched into hostile territory and proceeded to get ambushed. The whistle had barely blown before the Americans' game plan fell to pieces and they gave up an early, back-breaking goal.
With Atlante's scoreless draw over Cruz Azul in the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final on Tuesday, los Potros punched a ticket to the FIFA Club World Cup, where they could meet either Manchester United or Barcelona come December.
Arsenal's Mexican striker Carlos Vela has been given the all-clear to join up with their squad for the Champions League semifinal against Manchester United after a swine flu scare.
Mexico authorities ban soccer crowds to stop contagion risk from swine flu. CNN's Karl Penhaul reports from Mexico City.
The outbreak of swine flu, that has killed more than 150 people in Mexico, has also affected the football world with the semfinals and final of the CONCACAF section of the under-17 World Cup, scheduled for Wednesday and Saturday, having been cancelled -- world governing body FIFA has confirmed on their official Web site.
Our weekly dose of Major League Soccer quick takes, plotlines to watch and Power Rankings.
After Ricardo Lavolpe's exit from the Mexican national team following the 2006 World Cup, the ensuing Cup cycle kicked off with the immensely popular Hugo Sánchez in charge in what was supposed to be a successful and memorable time for himself and El Tricolor.
When Sven-Göran Eriksson was appointed Mexico coach last year, the critics feared he would not have enough time to get to know the idiosyncrasies of the country's soccer or prepare himself for the difficulties of the region's World Cup qualifiers.
Last August, the U.S. began the semifinal round of CONCACAF 2010 World Cup qualifying by winning in Guatemala for the first time. Its first away test in the Hexagonal comes Saturday (9 p.m. ET, ESPN2, TeleFutura) in San Salvador, a city in which it has won and tied in two previous qualifying visits, so a victory won't be as historic. But it will be no less important, especially should Mexico, which lost 2-0 to the U.S. in Columbus, Ohio, last month, fail to beat Costa Rica in Azteca Stadium.
In 2001, Costa Rica pulled off the unthinkable. Los Ticos went into Mexico City's Estadio Azteca and walked away with a 2-1 World Cup qualifying victory. The so-called Aztecazo was one of the most important victories in Costa Rican history and still stands alone in CONCACAF as a monumental achievement.
Once considered the strongest team in Central America -- before it was overtaken by Costa Rica and Honduras -- El Salvador has reached the final stage of the CONCACAF regional World Cup qualifiers for the first time in 12 years. (El Salvador hosts the U.S. on Saturday in the second game of the Hexagonal.)
The way Francisco Marcos saw it, all he wanted was a chance. For years, the president and founder of the United Soccer Leagues felt his supposed second-tier teams deserved respect and recognition instead of banishment and obscurity. All they needed was a platform on which to perform.
After a nearly four-month break, the CONCACAF Champions League came back in full force this week. Four quarterfinal series kicked off with games held in Canada, the U.S., Puerto Rico and Mexico with return legs slated for Mexico and Honduras next week.
Life likes dualities: yin and yang, Democrat and Republican, Newton's Third Law of Motion (anyone remember it?). Sports does, too: Ali and Frazier, Celtics and Lakers, Lance Armstrong and the French media.
If the cream rises to the top, then there should be little doubt which league is the best in CONCACAF.
In the next few days, names of players summoned by U.S. coach Bob Bradley for the next two CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers will begin to leak out, with the inclusion or lack thereof of Freddy Adu, Jozy Altidore, Eddie Johnson and Kenny Cooper drawing the most interest.
The U.S. advanced to the so-called Hexagonal -- still the coolest name of any tournament stage in sports -- on Saturday night with its 6-1 romp over Cuba. Usually, advancement in World Cup qualifying should spark a moment of joy, of celebration, of wild orgiastic running through the streets naked until a cop or a girl tackles you. Or something like that.
For the first time ever, CONCACAF teams have played competitive matches throughout the region in a short amount of time. The region's inaugural Champions League is underway and whether or not the tournament is viable or necessary is irrelevant now that the games have begun.
Is this the year New England finally breaks through to win the league title, and one of its players breaks new ground by winning the MVP award?
The greatest show on earth is back in action. If you're looking at these rankings and coming to the conclusion that Champions League play seems to dominate, good for you. That's the biggest mountain-moving criteria we're using this time around. To us, the grandest club tournament in the world is the best gauge to determine who the movers and shakers are.
For the past decade, any time MLS officials made remarks about altering the regular-season schedule to accommodate international competitions, coaches and general managers knew it was time to reach for their collection of rock music, flip to the Led Zeppelin stack and pull out The Song Remains the Same.
Not too long ago, the U.S. hung a big number on Guatemala, but by all indications it won't happen Wednesday in Guatemala City when the nations kick off the semifinal round of CONCACAF 2010 World Cup qualifying (10 p.m. ET, ESPN2 and Galavision). The U.S. has won only once in nine trips to the Central American nation of 13 million people, and that lone 1-0 victory came 20 years ago on a goal by Jeff Agoos, a rarity indeed. It tied 0-0 three years ago and 1-1 in 2000 on its last two qualifying visits.
Two years ago a changing of the guard for the U.S. men's national team began, with the retirement of several veterans following a disappointing showing at the 2006 World Cup. On the eve of qualifying play for the 2010 tournament, not all of the questions that faced the national team at that time have been answered.
A casual observer at CONCACAF's Olympic qualifying tournament may not be able to pick out the supposed regional powers after the competition's rocky start.
After stopping in San Antonio to play MLS opponents -- including each other -- in the Texas Pro Soccer Festival last week, Houston and D.C. United begin play Wednesday in the CONCACAF Champions' Cup quarterfinals sporting very different lineups than they did last year. In United's case, the look is drastically new.
Europe has the UEFA Champions League, South America has the Copa Libertadores. Almost by default, North America also has to hold an international club tournament that pits champion against champion.
If 2007 was an important and memorable year for the U.S. national team -- hired a new coach, Benny Feilhaber's miracle volley in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final, the Copa América (mis)adventure -- then '08 is shaping up to be the complete opposite: 12 months of pick-up games in the backyard.
FIFA hierarchy have voted to scrap the policy of rotating World Cup finals between the six continental confederations, following a meeting in Switzerland.
Being a league commissioner in American sports is a thankless gig. Unless you're a pioneer like Pete Rozelle or David Stern, you're not remembered for much besides being the guy in a sharp Armani who hands down steep fines or calls off tied All-Star games.
Also in this column: • Five SuperLiga matchups we crave • Mexicans in Champions League
Dunga's career as coach of the Brazil national team couldn't have gotten off to a worse start, a disastrous 2-0 trouncing by Mexico in the Copa Am�rica opener for both sides.
Forgive Steve Ralston if he looked a little disoriented on Saturday. After all, the veteran New England Revolution midfielder only rolled into U.S. national-team camp a few days ago, nearly a week later than his teammates.
Mexico's 2010 World Cup campaign is in trouble.
The U.S. is going to win the World Cup.
I don't know about you, I'm a little MLS-ed out. And I say that only as the overwhelmed editor of the SI.com soccer section; the fan side of me is still Major League Stoked. I honestly have never been this excited about our own American league.
MLS clubs, take note.
When it comes to matching up against Mexican clubs, MLS teams are like cattle being led to the slaughter.
Mexico secured their World Cup qualification by crushing nine-man Panama 5-0 at the Azteca stadium.
Steve Ralston and DaMarcus Beasley gave the United States a 2-0 win over Mexico on Saturday to secure their place in the 2006 World Cup finals.
Mexico's joint all-time record goalscorer Jared Borgetti is on the point of signing for English Premier League club Bolton Wanderers from Pachuca.
Mexico and the USA took one step nearer the World Cup finals in Germany next year with convincing victories in CONCACAF qualifying on Wednesday.
CONCACAF officials have sent a video of the United States-El Salvador World Cup qualifier to FIFA, following Saturday's ill-tempered match between the two teams.
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