Insider Notes: Why it's harming USA, Mexico to play October friendlies at all
The U.S. and Mexico both scheduled two friendlies during this international window, and that might have been a bad idea compared to not playing at all.
The flawed FIFA rankings formula, which takes into account results, importance of matches, strength of opponent and strength of opponent's confederation, will actually punish the U.S. and Mexico even if they win all their friendlies during the October window.
That matters because both teams–and especially Mexico–have a shot of getting into the top seven in the FIFA rankings by next October—which would make them a seeded team for the 2018 World Cup draw. With the heavily valued Confederations Cup and Gold Cup on the docket for Mexico prior to the draw, the points necessary are there for the taking.
There's recent precedent for why this is a big deal. Switzerland limited its number of friendlies the year before the World Cup 2014 draw, snuck into the draw as a seeded team and advanced from an easier group (Ecuador, France, Honduras). Compare that to England, which would have taken Switzerland’s seed if it had just not played one friendly. Instead, England drew a more difficult group–Uruguay, Italy and Costa Rica–and didn’t advance, going 0-1-2 in the opening stage.
Mexico, which is No. 15 in the current FIFA ranking, beat New Zealand (88) and will face Panama (62) in Tuesday's friendly.
Meanwhile, the USA (22) beat Cuba (139) and will face New Zealand in the final match prior to meeting Mexico to open CONCACAF's World Cup qualifying Hexagonal.
Here are a couple of more notes from around the soccer world, focused on the USA and Mexico:
USA eyes Colorado for June World Cup qualifier vs. Trinidad and Tobago
Jurgen Klinsmann has already said that he’d like to have the U.S.’s camp at altitude before next June’s World Cup qualifier at Estadio Azteca against Mexico. Sources say that U.S. Soccer has started looking into playing that home qualifier against Trinidad and Tobago in the Denver area at Dick's Sporting Goods Park, in Commerce City, Colorado.
The last time the U.S. played a qualifier at the venue was the famous SnowClásico against Costa Rica in 2013, which was also right before the away game at Mexico.
The U.S. is considering training that week in Colorado Springs, which is at an even higher altitude than Denver.
Juan Carlos Osorio sought advice from Bielsa after Mexico's 7-0 Copa loss
Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio suffered a brutal 7-0 loss to Chile in the Copa América, and his response to the defeat was fascinating. Over a 90-minute breakfast recently, Osorio said he went to a small town in southern Brazil and spent five days at the house of the legendary soccer Yoda, Argentine manager Marcelo Bielsa.
Osorio said he and Bielsa took long walks twice a day and had deep conversations about the sport, conversations that helped Osorio put the Chile loss in perspective. Like Bielsa, Osorio loves to tinker. He used a 3-3-3-1 formation on Saturday in a 2-1 win over New Zealand, and during that breakfast Osorio laid out sugar packets on the table to explain what he’s trying to do with Mexico.
So far, the Mexican media hasn’t exactly embraced that tinkering, and Osorio is under immense pressure ahead of next month’s big World Cup qualifier against the United States.
Sarai Bareman to be named FIFA's first Chief Women's Soccer Officer
FIFA is set to name Sarai Bareman of New Zealand as its Chief Women’s Soccer Officer, SI.com has learned. Bareman, who joins FIFA after serving as the deputy general secretary of the Oceania Football Confederation, will be officially announced in the newly created position later this week.
Bareman was part of the FIFA Reform Committee that came up with a slate of changes—including requiring more women in FIFA leadership—that was voted into effect by the FIFA Congress in February. She has a solid reputation as a progressive who gets things done and should help the growth of women’s soccer worldwide.