U.S. Learns World Cup Draw

The United States, as well as 169 other countries, discovered on Sunday what they will be up against in attempting to return to the World Cup, as the Preliminary Draw was held today in the South African city of Durban.
Bob Bradley's boys will initially face the winner of a home-and-away series between Dominica (ranked 189th) and Barbados (ranked 124th) in June, with an eye on moving to the next stage. Another CONCACAF power, Mexico has drawn the winner of Belize - St. Kitts and Nevis, neither of which should provide much in the way of competition for El Tri. Canada already knows their opponent, as they will take on St. Vincent/Grenadines in their mission to qualify for the finals for only the second time in their history (Mexico '86).

"Certainly we know that Barbados would be the favorite to advance," said Bradley. "We know Barbados from having played them twice in the semifinal round of qualifying for the 2002 World Cup. They are a team that typically is physically talented and are starting to have more players competing overseas. All the teams in CONCACAF continue to improve, making qualifying for the World Cup increasingly competitive."

In other regions making news, Australia was placed in a tough group with the likes of China and Iraq standing in the way of a return for the upstart Socceroos to the big stage. Also in the Asian region, the two Korean neighbors will square off in Group 3.

The most attention, however, was focused on the European draw, and it was rightfully so as some great matchups were produced. With only the nine group winners and the eight-best runners-up from each group moving on, several of the groups will likely feature the ousting of at least one world soccer power. Group 1 boasts the trio of Portugal, Sweden and Denmark; Group 5 has Spain, Turkey and Belgium; The Netherlands, Scotland and Norway have been placed in Group 9. But the loudest cheers from the hall came when Croatia rounded out Group 6, meaning they will be put up against England once more, giving the Three Lions a chance for vengeance after Croatia bounced them out of Euro 2008 earlier this week. Joining them will be two other tough opponents, Belgium and Ukraine.

Who has the hardest task in making the finals? Will the U.S. and Mexico run wild over all other CONCACAF competition on their way back to The Show? Is England doomed?

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