The USA failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia but made no mistake this time around, despite defeat to Costa Rica in the final 2022 qualifying game. With enough points secured and enough goals already scored, that result affected little but pride. But can the team make any impact when the action gets underway in Qatar in November?
The USA is currently ranked No. 14 in the world. They reached a peak of No. 4 back in 2006 but failed to progress beyond the group stage that year. Their best performance came back in 2002 when they shocked the world by reaching the quarter-finals, eventually finishing in eighth place. Matching or beating that benchmark will always be the target for the Stars and Stripes. In the World Cup odds, the USA is currently priced at odds of +10000 to win the tournament compared to +450 for favorites Brazil. Yet, there might be better value to be found elsewhere in the marketplace. So, let’s look at how they might perform.
One factor that could play to the advantage of the USMT is the scheduling. For the first time ever, the tournament will be hosted in November and December. This is because of the weather conditions in Qatar, which are too hot in June and July. This revised date falls in the middle of the regular season for many top leagues in Europe and elsewhere. So, players working in England, Italy, Spain, Germany, and other elite competitions will have little time to prepare and will head straight into the action mid-season
This clashes with the interests of their clubs who will want their players to avoid injury and burn-out during this period. In contrast, the MLS regular season ends on October 9, and the Championship playoffs will be concluded by November 5. The World Cup will not begin until Sunday, November 20 giving plenty of teams for US-based players to prepare. There are some key players, however, who currently ply their trade in Europe and will be still affected by the tight schedule.
A manageable group
There are no easy groups at the World Cup, so the best you can hope for is a group that gives you a chance. The USA has been drawn in the same group (B) as England, which reached the final of Euro 2020 and the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup. Only Brazil and France are priced better than the English. Two teams will qualify from each group into the Round of 16, so the game between these two could have a big impact on the final table.
England failed to beat the USA in two previous World Cup meetings but presuming they do live up to their reputation and prevail, the USA must rate their chances against Iran and Wales. They famously lost to Iran in 1998 but they are now much more experienced on the world stage and are ahead of them in the rankings. Likewise, they have ranked ahead of Wales who they will face in their first game.
With the schedule in their favor and a group in which they are the second-best ranked team, the USA looked well-placed to escape from Group B. This makes the price of +450 for them to reach the quarter-finals for the second time in their history look very good value.