[WORLD CUP 2014: Draw]The leadup to the World Cup 2014 Draw produced all kinds of intrigue about how the draw will work and who will participate in the ceremonies. Pele begged off, not wanting to have his fingerprints on anything that mind harm Brazil's chances, and a Brazilian prosecutor threatened a lawsuit over the skin color of two of the entertainers, but that will soon be forgotten Friday once the 32 teams know the draw. Where they'll be playing could be almost as important as whom they'll be playing.
The USA got the perfect draw four years ago -- in more ways than one.
It got three teams it could play with and did in Group C, going unbeaten against England, Slovenia and Algeria to win a four-team group for the first time in its history.
Just as important was the USA's position at C2, which meant it had minimal travel issues since the three venues -- Rustenburg, Johannesburg and Tshwane/Pretoria -- were situated near each other and just south of Pretoria, where it was based at Irene Country Lodge.
There were no long treks to the coast or changes in climate and altitude. On top of that, the USA was familiar with all three stadiums, having played in all three of them during the 2009 Confederations Cup, where it finished second.
The USA didn't take part in the 2013 Confederations Cup, so it won't have the advantage of already knowing the lay of the land, but what position into which it falls with the second draw of the ball on Friday will be important.
There will no short treks in Brazil -- the minimum an unseeded team will travel in the group stage is 2,000 miles -- but just about everyone wants to avoid the city of Manaus (Season 7, Episode 11 for all you "No Reservations" fans). It's located in the middle of Amazon and hardly accessible by water. (As it is, it's a four-hour flight from Rio.)
The minimum an unseeded team will have to travel if it has to play in Manaus is almost 4,000 miles. On top of that the tropical heat and humidity can be oppressive.
According to SI.com's Grant Wahl, who calculated the travel of all 24 unseeded teams in the group stage, more than 7,000 miles separate the three venues of five teams, and three of them require stops in Manaus: A4, D4 and G4.
No one seems to want to play in Manaus, and that landed England coach Roy Hodgson in hot water when he said he's hoping to avoid the city's tropical heat.
"I'm just mouthing what everybody has been saying to me," he said.
The mayor of Manaus didn't take likely to what Hodgson said, however. If England didn't want Manaus, Arthur Virgilio saidManaus didn't want England either.
''We would also prefer that England doesn't come,'' Virgilio said. ''We hope to get a better team and a coach who is more sensible and polite. He's one of the few people in the world who is not curious about the Amazon, who doesn't want to know Manaus.''
NOTE: If you don't believe location can help, keep in mind the 2002 World Cup draw. It meant the USA was based in downtown Seoul at the Marriott, where it stayed for its entire run through the quarterfinals -- its best in modern history.
World Cup 2014 Draw:
POT 1 (SEEDS):
POT 2 (AFRICA/SOUTH AMERICA):
17 Ivory Coast
(*plus one team currently in Pot 4)
POT 3 (ASIA/CONCACAF):
31 Costa Rica
54 South Korea
POT 4 (EUROPE):
*One European team in Put 4 will be drawn into Pot 2
Note:Number represents November FIFA ranking. (October rankings were used to determine seeds.)