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April 28th, 2000 12AM
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The U.S. men's national team's road to the 2002 World Cup in Japan and Korea began to map itself out today with the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying semifinal round draw conducted this afternoon at FIFA's headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland. As one of three seeds in the CONCACAF region (also known as the Football Confederation), the United States was originally placed in Group E in December. In today's draw, the USA was joined in its four-team group by Costa Rica and the eventual winners of both Caribbean Zone 1 and Interzone Round 2. Caribbean Zone 1 will be represented by the winner of the two-leg final between Cuba and Barbados, currently scheduled for May 7 and May 21, in Cuba and Barbados, respectively. The representative from Interzone Round 2 will come from a playoff between the loser of the Antigua & Barbuda vs. St. Vincent & Grenadines series and the second-place finisher of Central America's Zone A (most likely Guatemala). "We will be ready for whatever we have to face," said U.S. head coach Bruce Arena. "Obviously, starting with two road matches will put our backs up against the wall a little bit, and the conditions in Central America in July will be tough, but we have prepared ourselves by playing games on the road, and this is all part of World Cup qualifying. We will have three straight games at home in August, September and October and for the majority of qualifying we will have our MLS players fit and in form for matches. Also, the last four match dates are all international fixture dates, so we won't have to deal with the traditional problems of recalling our European-based players." Qualifying play in the region will begin with two matches for each country in July, between July 12 and July 26, and will follow with one match a month through November. In August, the scheduling window for teams is Aug. 15 or 16, and in September it is Sept. 2 or 3. In October, teams will have between Oct. 7 and Oct. 11 to schedule their fifth qualifying match, and the final matches will be played on either Nov. 14 or 15. The U.S. will open with consecutive matches on the road and will then play three straight home games before concluding the semifinal round in either Cuba or Barbados. The U.S. home games will fall within the following windows: Aug. 15 or 16; and Sept. 2 or 3; and Oct. 7-11. The 12 teams in the CONCACAF qualifying semifinals will play six home-and-away matches against the other three teams in their group, with the top two teams from each group advancing to the final round of qualifying. In 2001, the six final-round qualifiers will be matched up in one group, where they will play 10 home-and-away matches against the other five finalists. The USA's final preparation before World Cup qualifying will come during the first week in June at the Nike U.S. Cup 2000, when the USA, Ireland, Mexico and South Africa battle from June 3-11 in Washington D.C., Chicago, Boston, Dallas and New York City. USA World Cup Qualifying Breakdown Group E USA Costa Rica Caribbean Zone 1 (Cuba or Barbados) Interzone Round 2 (Antigua & Barbuda or St. Vincent & Grenadines vs. Guatemala, El Salvador or Belize) Group E Match Schedule
Game No. Scheduling Window Match (home team listed first)
Game #1 Wed., July 12 to Sun., July 16 --Interzone Round 2 winner vs. USA
--Cuba or Barbados vs. Costa Rica
Game #2 Sat., July 22 to Wed., July 26 --Costa Rica vs. USA
--Interzone Round 2 winner vs. Cuba or Barbados
Game #3 Tue., Aug. 15 or Wed., Aug. 16 --USA vs. Cuba or Barbados
--Costa Rica vs. Interzone Round 2 winner
Game #4 Sat., Sept. 2 or Sun., Sept. 3 --USA vs. Interzone Round 2 winner
--Costa Rica vs. Cuba or Barbados
Game #5 Sat., Oct. 7 to Wed., Oct. 11 --USA vs. Costa Rica
--Cuba or Barbados vs. Interzone Round 2 winner
Game #6 Tue., Nov. 14 or Wed., Nov. 15 --Cuba or Barbados vs. USA
--Interzone Round 2 winner vs. Costa Rica
Remaining TFC Semifinal Round World Cup Qualifying Groups Group C -- winner Central American Zone B (Honduras or Panama) -- Mexico -- winner Interzone Round 1 (Canada vs. runner-up Caribbean Zone 1) -- winner Caribbean Zone 3 (Trinidad & Tobago vs. Haiti) Group D -- winner Central American Zone A (El Salvador or Guatemala) -- winner Interzone Round 3 (runner-up Caribbean Zone 3 vs. runner-up Central American Zone B) -- winner Caribbean Zone 2 (St. Vincent & Grenadines vs. Antigua & Barbuda) -- Jamaica

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