By Grant Wahl
December 03, 2013

Michael Bradley, Tim Howard Michael Bradley and Tim Howard will hope for manageable travel demands during the World Cup in spacious Brazil. (Moises Castillo/AP)

SÃO PAULO — When the World Cup draw happens on Friday in Bahia, the talk will focus mainly on the composition of the eight four-team groups. But while the U.S. will hope to rekindle the luck it had in the last World Cup draw—when it was grouped with the relatively easy England, Slovenia and Algeria—the Americans will also be hoping to have some good fortune again on the travel aspect of the draw.

At World Cup 2010 in South Africa, the U.S. was always able to travel by bus: Or, to be more exact, only 192 miles round-trip from the team base in Pretoria to opening-round games in Rustenburg, Johannesburg and Pretoria itself.

Brazil is a huge country, however, and from its home base here in São Paulo the U.S. will have to travel by plane to its first-round games. Depending on Friday’s draw (ESPN2, 11:30 a.m. ET), the U.S. will have to cover anywhere from 1,946 miles to 8,866 miles round-trip during the opening round alone.

The last time the World Cup took place in a large country — in the U.S. in 1994 — teams had at least two of their three opening-round games in the same venue. (The U.S. played in Detroit, followed by two games in the Los Angeles area.) That’s not the case at World Cup 2014, which will have 12 venues scattered around Brazil.

The venue that nobody wants to draw is Manaus, the World Cup’s Amazon outpost, where the games take place in a different time zone from the rest of the tournament in hot and muggy conditions that will require a 3,340-mile round trip from São Paulo. Like the 23 other unseeded teams, the U.S. has a 29 percent chance of drawing a game in Manaus, the same odds of drawing a game in Recife, Natal, Curitiba, Porto Alegre or Cuiabá.

Meanwhile, all the unseeded teams (including the U.S.) have a 21 percent chance of drawing a first-round game in the bigger-ticket venues of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Fortaleza, Brasília, Salvador or Belo Horizonte (the same city where the U.S. upset England 1-0 in World Cup 1950).

What would be the ideal U.S. draw from a travel perspective? Probably B3, which would involve a “home” game in São Paulo, a game in Rio de Janeiro and just 2,088 travel miles. What would the worst draw be? A tie between D4 and G4, which would include games in Manaus, Recife and Natal and a whopping 8,866 travel miles.

Here are the travel possibilities for the U.S. in Friday’s draw (keeping in mind that the eight seeded teams will fill the 1 spot in each group):

Draw Game 1               Game 2                    Game 3                           Travel Miles

E2      Brasília                Curitiba                   Rio de Janeiro                       1946

H2      Belo Horizonte   Porto Alegre            Curitiba                                  2084

B3      Cuiabá                Rio de Janeiro         São Paulo                              2088

H3      Cuiabá                Rio de Janeiro         Curitiba                                 2508

H4      Cuiabá                Porto Alegre            São Paulo                              2704

F3      Curitiba              Belo Horizonte        Salvador                                 2830

B2      Salvador             Porto Alegre            São Paulo                               2862

B4      Cuiabá                Porto Alegre            Curitiba                                  3124

F4      Curitiba              Cuiabá                     Porto Alegre                            3124

E3      Porto Alegre       Salvador                  Rio de Janeiro                         3304

F2      Rio de Janeiro    Cuiabá                     Salvador                                  3892

D3      Manaus               São Paulo                Belo Horizonte                       3946

E4      Porto Alegre       Curitiba                   Manaus                                    4818

A2      São Paulo            Manaus                   Recife                                      5984

D2      Fortaleza             Recife                       Belo Horizonte                       6192

G2      Salvador             Manaus                   Brasília                                    6228

C2      Belo Horizonte   Natal                        Fortaleza                                 6430

C3      Recife                  Brasília                    Fortaleza                                6670

G3      Natal                   Fortaleza                 Brasília                                   6908

C4      Recife                  Natal                        Cuiabá                                   7172

A4      Natal                   Manaus                   Brasília                                    7306

A3      Natal                   Fortaleza                 Recife                                      8468

D4      Manaus               Recife                       Natal                                      8866

G4      Natal                   Manaus                   Recife                                      8866

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