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CONCACAF looking at four plans
Wednesday, February 5, 2003
CONCACAF looking at four plans
NEW YORK -- The United States could start qualifying for the 2006 World Cup next spring instead of next summer, according to proposals being considered by soccer's regional governing body.
The Confederation of North and Central American and Caribbean Football Associations is to consider expanding the qualifying schedule when its executive committee meets Friday in New York.
"We think it's unlikely we'll begin in the summer of 2004,'' U.S. coach Bruce Arena said Wednesday. "We think we'll begin a little earlier.''
For the past two World Cups, the U.S. team began qualifying in the July two years prior to the tournament. Caribbean and Central American nations played up to eight games each to reach the regional semifinals.
Three teams from CONCACAF advanced through qualifying to the past two World Cups. The top two teams in each of the three four-nation semifinal groups moved on to the final round, with three teams then qualifying for the tournament.
The executive committee of FIFA, soccer's world governing body, voted Dec. 17 to give the CONCACAF region a chance for a fourth berth at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Under the new allocation, the No. 4 team from CONCACAF will play the No. 5 team from Asia in a home-and-home, total-goals playoff.
CONCACAF is examining four plans heading into Friday's meeting of its seven-man executive committee. The goal of the organization is to increase the number of qualifiers, especially for the smaller countries in the 40-nation group, some of whom have been eliminated after just two qualifiers. That could be accomplished by having group play at an earlier stage.
The draw for World Cup qualifying will be conducted by FIFA on Dec. 5 at Frankfurt, Germany.
At Friday's meeting, CONCACAF plans to conduct the draw for the men's qualifying tournament for the 2004 Athens Olympics. The tournament is generally limited to players under 23.
The U.S. national team, which opened its 2003 schedule with a 4-0 rout of Canada on Jan. 8, plays Argentina in an exhibition game Saturday in Miami. While the Americans are in two tournament later this year -- the FIFA Confederations Cup and the CONCACAF Gold Cup -- the goal is to prepare the team for the start of qualifying.
"We have a vision of the long term and try to evaluate these players in our current pool and try to project where they may be a year down the road,'' Arena said during a telephone conference call.
For now, defense is the area where Arena needs to develop new talent. Still, he'd like a deeper pool of players at all positions.
"You can say that our goalkeepers have always been outstanding, and yet we know that our top keepers (Brad Friedel and Kasey Keller) will turn 35 or 36 years old by the next World Cup, so it is valuable to develop younger guys in this position,'' Arena said. "You are always worried about injuries as well.''
Pablo Mastroeni, a U.S. midfielder and defender, was born in Argentina, giving the game extra meaning for him.
"Obviously, a lot of my heritage and customs are from Argentina and from that aspect it is a special game,'' he said.
Argentina is coming off its embarrassing first-round elimination at last year's World Cup.
"It's apparent that anytime the Argentines step on any field that they feel like they should win,'' Mastroeni said. "Any defeat, whether a World Cup or a friendly, is a big disaster to the country, because soccer is everything, I guess.''
My heart = INTER...No Matter Win or Lose...
Zanetti : I still remember my first day at Inter. I arrived with a plastic bag with my boots inside and I crossed the crowd of fans who were asking who I was. That's where it all started.....