The World Cup Pot Allocation Was Not Good For The USA

The following is a guest post by soccer writer David Leboff. His work can be seen in The Dugout – an online soccer magazine. Follow him here.

The Pots for Brazil 2014:

Pot 1: Seeded Teams:

Brazil (10), Spain (1), Germany (2), Argentina (3), Colombia (4), Uruguay (6), and Switzerland (8) Belgium (11),

Pot 2: CONMEBOL, CAF, and One UEFA Team

Chile (15), Ivory Coast (17), Ecuador (23), Ghana (24), Algeria (26), Nigeria (36), Cameroon (51), and One European Team


USA (14), Mexico (20), Costa Rica (31), Honduras (41), Iran (45), Japan (48), South Korea (54), Australia (59)

Pot 4: UEFA

Portugal (5), Italy (7), Netherlands (9), Greece (12), England (13), Croatia (16), France (19), Bosnia-Herzegovina (21), Russia (22)

As Christmas fast approaches, so too does the proverbial holiday for footballing fans everywhere, The World Cup Draw. This is the day where all the little boys and girls find out whether their teams have been naughty or nice depending on how their countries’ draw goes; the well-behaved teams being placed in group(s) of life and the naughty teams being placed in the group(s) of death. Unfortunately for the United States, the cards have been stacked against a favorable draw, increasing the odds they will be dealt an early lump of coal.

Geographic Handicap

FIFA separates countries from similar regions, with no two teams from the same region being placed in the same group, with the exception of Europe (because UEFA sends thirteen teams to the competition, no more than two European teams can be drawn into the same pot). This means that as four years ago, teams that have qualified from CONCACAF and the AFC will placed in the same pot. Four of the five lowest seeds in the tournament (Iran, 45; Japan, 48; South Korea, 54; and Australia, 59) will all be in the same pot as The United States. Two of the other sides in the same pot, Costa Rica (31) and Honduras (41), are also outside of the top thirty. This means that of the eight teams currently outside of the top thirty, The United States will be unable to draw six of them. It also means that eleven unseeded teams currently ranked lower than the United States, can draw those six teams. This outdated drawing method handicaps teams from CONCACAF and the AFC rewarding lower seeded teams from Africa, South America, and Europe.

For another look at how these groups are seeded unfairly, let us look at the average ranking of each of the unseeded pots. Pot 2 and 4 will be ranges, as in a mark of further lunacy, FIFA’s Organizing Committee decided any one of the nine teams from Europe can be drawn into Pot 2 instead of the lowest seeded UEFA team. Pot 2 will have an average ranking of between 24.6 (if Portugal ends up in the pot) and 26.8 (if Russia ends up in the pot). Pot 4 will have an average ranking between 12.8 (if Russia is drawn out of this pot) and 14.9 (if Portugal is drawn out of this pot). Pot 3, on the other hand, will have an average ranking of 39, ensuring that unseeded teams from any other pot have a better shot than the likes of The US or Mexico.

In order to win this tournament, the triumphant nation will need wins over some of the world’s strongest sides, but having the possibility of three of the world’s top seven countries in one group is beyond absurd. It is unfair to those three nations as well as the remaining team from Pot 2 drawn into that group. This draw will likely see not only one, but possibly several groups of death in play, meaning some of the world’s best will not make it into the knockout stages, while other teams that had cakewalks through the group stage will book an easy berth in the knockout round. This clearly demonstrates FIFA’s drawing methods are archaic needing further consideration.

The days leading up to Friday’s draw will be uneasy ones for the United States. Like a child caught stealing out of the cookie jar one too many times before the arrival of Santa, The US can only hope that they are not on the naughty list. Unfortunately for The Yanks, they did nothing other than play their best year of football in the nation’s history to earn such a dubious position. Hopefully three days of anxiety ahead of the draw do not turn into six months of sensing impending doom leading into The World Cup.