The path to the 2018 World Cup will start to come into focus on Saturday when FIFA conducts its preliminary draw. The event will kick off at 7:55 a.m. Pacific time and the United States, as well as the rest of the nations still in the running, will learn at least part of their path.
The Americans are entering qualifying in the fourth round of CONCACAF qualifying, an advantage given to six highest ranked teams in the region. Six still undetermined teams will also participate in the round, and they will be split into three four-team groups. Each team will play the other three teams in their group home and away, with the top two teams from each group advancing to the final round of qualifying.
As one of the confederation's top three ranked teams, the U.S. cannot be drawn into the same group as fellow seeded teams Mexico and Costa Rica. They will have to play one of Honduras, Panama or Trinidad and Tobago, as well as two other teams that advance from the third round, which won't be completed until August. The draw for the third round will also take place on Saturday. Among the 12 teams still alive are Jamaica, Haiti, Guatemala, Canada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The dates for the fourth round of qualifying are as follows:
- Nov. 13 and 17, 2015
- March 25 and 29, 2016
- Sept. 2 and 6, 2016
There will be another draw for the final round of qualifying after the fourth round is over to determine the schedule and home and away dates. The final round of qualifying will consist of six teams, all of whom play home and away from November 2016 through October 2017. The top three teams will go to the World Cup, while the fourth place team will go to an inter-confederation playoff for the final spot in Russia.
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