U.S. opens final World Cup qualifying at Honduras
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- The final-round road to the World Cup for the United States will start on the road.
The Americans will play three of their first four qualifiers next year away from home, opening at Honduras on Feb. 6.
Seeking its seventh consecutive World Cup appearance, the United States hosts Costa Rica on March 22 and then goes to Mexico four days later, according to Wednesday's draw.
"In a draw like that, nothing turns out perfect for nobody,'' U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. "You would like to have the first game at home, but if you don't have it at home, you make the best out of it. We'll take it that way and we're looking forward to going to Honduras for the first game.''
The Americans are at Jamaica on June 7, host Panama four days later and are home against Honduras on June 18. They play at Costa Rica on Sept. 6 before hosting Mexico on Sept. 10. They are home against Jamaica on Oct. 11 and close at Panama four days later.
The top three teams in the hexagonal qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and the fourth-place team advances to a home-and-home playoff against the Oceania champion, likely New Zealand, for a spot in the 32-nation tournament.
Klinsmann finds advantage with the United States playing in hostile settings early on.
"If you get the results on the road, obviously you'll feel more confident in your home games and finish it off,'' he said. "We just have to be sharp and focused and get the job done on the road in typical environments which we all know. That's what the region's about.''
Sites for the United States' five home matches have not been determined. U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said 10-12 venues are being considered.
Mexico's fourth game, against Jamaica, was moved up two weeks to June 4 because El Tri will represent the region at the Confederations Cup in Brazil.
Of the six teams, Panama is the only nation never to play in a World Cup. It reached the final qualifying round in 2006, when it finished last with two points.
Panama hosts Costa Rica in its opener.
"Because of its history Panama is the underdog,'' Panama coach Julio Dely Valdes said. "But we are strong and this is a great opportunity for Panama to reach that goal. We wanted Mexico first because of their history as well as the United States. But we got Costa Rica first - another important opponent.''