Thursday, December 08, 2005

By Zach

So it was with mild interest that I read that the United State was not seeded in the top eight for the 2006 World Cup, finishing a single point behind Italy and Argentina. The formula FIFA uses isn't publicly known, but it apparently involves a combination of world rankings (where the US is currently 7th) and results from the last two World Cups (1998 and 2002). What this means is that the US is guaranteed to be in a group with one of those top eight teams, and could conceivably end up paired with powerhouses like Brazil, Argentina, Italy, or England. Because they both qualified from CONCACAF, the US can not end up in the same pool as Mexico.

I'm not a big soccer fan. I don't follow MLS or European League play. But I do follow the World Cup. The process FIFA uses to seed teams is outdated and moronic, and here's why.

First, using nearly eight-year-old results as a means to rank teams currently is insane. How many players on this current US team played significant roles on that team? Additionally, it's merely a way for FIFA to continue to favor rich, mainly European countries who drive much of the revenue for the sport. The host Germans have a much weaker squad that the 2002 runners-up, and the Spanish had to play an extra pair of games just to do they deserve to be among the top eight teams? If FIFA wants to use results from the last World Cup, then fine, that makes some sense. But going back any further than that is inane.

The focus should be on picking the top eight teams in the world right now. Clearly, the US has showed that it is superior to Mexico, finishing ahead of them in CONCACAF qualifying and beating them in the second round of the 2002 World Cup. Spain, we've already discussed. For the US to be ranked behind these two teams shows just how much FIFA and the rest of the world fear American soccer.

For decades, most of the soccer-playing world has feared that the United States, if it ever cared enough, would dominate international soccer. The resources, both financial and talent-wise, available in America dwarf just about every other country. But this isn't just about America, this is about the European powers fearing emerging countries. African and Asian nations have greatly raised their level of play, and yet they receive little consideration when it comes to seeding.

In the end, the US will have its chance to prove its worth on the fields of Germany. It's just a shame that they'll be fighting more than just another country, they'll be fighting a global conspiracy.


Blogger Paul Baker said...

"The formula FIFA uses isn't publicly known"

...or is it ?

9:02 PM  
Blogger Ben Valentine said...

Should the US be seeded? Probably. I'll agree with you on Spain; I don't like a team that barely qualifies having a top seed.

However, just to play Devil's Advocate, let's be realistic here. If Spain was in CONCACAF and the US in UEFA, do you think Spain would have had any problem qualifying? Of course not. FIFA has a tough task to balance; clearly Europe and South America are more competative than North America, Africa and Asia (let's not even mention Oceania). If we did it solely on how teams looked in the qualifying stage, then it wouldn't be fair to those teams. Spain did well in 2002 so it's not as if they perenially crap the bed...

Does it suck the US might get matched up with England, Germany or god help them, Brazil? Yes it does. But while 2002 was a great story, if the US wants to really prove it belongs, they can do that here. I like the US team, but for them to get taken seriously among the world's elite and be considered a top ten squad, they need to beat someone other than Mexico. Beat England, beat France, Spain, Argentina; someone good. This team has yet to do that.

The US has to build up a track record before it can really consider itself being screwed by FIFA. They started in 2002. If they make some noise this summer, then we can start talking about the US among the World's elite.

I'm hoping Mr. Mussa wants weigh in on this; I'm quite curious to see what Sportzilla's soccer expert thinks.

11:26 PM  
Blogger Sports Litter said...

I wish you wouldn't have wasted such good posting space on soccer. Sorry but I can't stand the sport (if you want to call it that). 90 minutes of boring men running around lucky to score 1 goal.

11:37 AM  
Blogger Imtiaz Mussa said...

I heard Ben's call for me so here I am. Sportszilla soccer expert Imtiaz Mussa with his opinion on the seeding system.

I felt that Spain should not have been given a top seed because of the fact that they had to go to a playoff round. According to the FIFA Rankings, the Czech Republic is the second best team in the world followed by the Netherlands. How about one of them being a top seed if they are ranked so high? My big problem actually lies with Mexico getting a top seed. For months, the FIFA rankings had Mexico ahead of the Americans despite the fact that we beat them time after time. Also in the November rankings, Spain jumped both Mexico and US for the sixth spot. It doesn't make much sense. FIFA needs to reconsider the way they do rankings.

Zach is right in his argument against the use of 1998's results. It's possible that the States may only have three players back from that team. (Keller, McBride, Reyna) FIFA gets a thumbs down.

10:07 PM  

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