On Friday, December 6, we'll all gather at Fado's for the club's "Bracket Brunch" with great hopes and prizes on the line for the FIFA World Cup draw.
There's plenty to get you started on your "Drawology" now, with the below graphic representing the suspected four pots that FIFA representatives (or perhaps Brazilian celebrities) will use to determine the eight groups for the tournament.
What you should know…
It should be noted that the only confirmed pot are the seeded teams in Pot #1, which features the hosts Brazil and the next seven best teams according to October’s FIFA Ranking.
For the second straight World Cup, FIFA has somewhat controversially gone by October’s FIFA rankings to determine seeds, rather than the previous formula which factored in both FIFA rankings along with nation’s finishes at the previous two or three tournaments.
The change wasn’t felt quite as heavily for the 2010 World Cup as traditional powers like Italy, The Netherlands and England all remained seeds. Those countries have been upended this time around in Pot #1 by the likes of Switzerland, Colombia and Belgium.
- The mix of CONCACAF/AFC (Pot #2) seems likely as both confederations have four teams each to make a round group of eight.
The only real question seems to be around which European team would join the mixed CAF (5 teams)/CONMEBOL (2 teams) in Pot #3 . If FIFA continues to go by their ranking procedure, France would be the lowest ranking European team, which could very well push them into the mixed pot, though this is unconfirmed and might not be known until the week of the draw.
Draw Makeup: Only nations from UEFA can be grouped with each other but only two per group and you obviously can’t be draw against countries in your own pot, so U.S. dreams of getting another crack at Iran (wither 1998) will have to wait.
- DOWNLOAD our tournament bracket (PDF) and begin conducting your mock draws now! The Fire's "Bracket Brunch" is just two weeks away!
So there it is… On what we know (and suspect), what’s the best case scenario for your nation of interest? What's the worst?
It's the end of the road for the U.S. Men's National Team in 2013...
Qualified for next summer's FIFA World Cup for two months, Jurgen Klinsmann will take a last look at his side with a pair of European friendlies beginning this afternoon at Scotland (LIVE 2pm CT on ESPN2, UniMas & WatchESPN). They'll close out the calendar year with another friendly Tuesday at Austria (LIVE 1:45pm CT on NBC Sports Network, UniMas).
Here's hoping Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson gets some time in one of the matches over the next week.
While the USMNT can continue their prep for Brazil, a number of European and African sides are still playing for their World Cup lives this weekend.
A full schedule of the games and where you can watch them on the TV set:
Friday - (UEFA First Legs)
Iceland vs. Croatia; 1:00pm CT on ESPN3.com, WatchESPN
Portugal vs. Sweden; 1:45pm CT on ESPN Deportes, WatchESPN
Ukraine vs. France; 1:45pm CT on ESPN3.com, WatchESPN
Greece vs. Romania; 1:45pm CT on ESPN3.com, WatchESPN
Saturday - (CAF Second Legs)
Nigeria vs. Ethiopia (2-1); 9:00am CT on beIN Sport, beIN Sport en Espanol
Senegal vs. Ivory Coast (1-3); 1:00pm CT on beIN Sport, beIN Sport en Espanol
Cameroon vs. Tunisia (0-0) ; 8:30am CT on beIN Sport, beIN Sport en Espanol
Chicago Fire midfielder Egidio Arevalo Rios and the Uruguayan National Team are [basically] on their way to Brazil next summer after an emphatic 5-0 demolition of Jordan in the first leg of the Intercontinental Playoffs earlier today in Amman.
Rios went 90 minutes in the heart of midfield while goals from Maxi Pereira (22'), Cristian Stuani (42'), Nicolass Lodeiro (69'), Cristian Rodriguez (78') and Edinson Cavani (92+') gave Uruguay what seems to be an insurmountable lead heading into the second leg next Wednesday in Montevideo.
Chicago Fire midfielders Joel Lindpere and Egidio Arevalo Rios won't be in Dallas this weekend as they've joined up with the Estonian and Uruguayan national teams respectively for FIFA World Cup qualifying matches.
Lindpere and Estonia have already been eliminated from contention to qualify for Brazil 2014 but coming off one of the biggest results in the nation's history last month (2-2 draw vs. Holland), they'll be looking to play spoiler as they welcome Turkey to Tallinn Friday afternoon (1:30pm CT).
On 13 points, the Turkish side sits one back of Hungary for the second place playoff spot in UEFA Group D, level with Estonia's Tuesday opponents Romania who visit lowly Andorra on Friday.
Arevalo Rios and Uruguay's position in CONMEBOL qualifying is much more intriguing. Uruguay and Ecuador sit tied on points at 22 with the two nations set to play Friday afternoon in Quito (4pm CT on beINSport Espanol). The winner of the match looks certain to have a leg up on the fourth and final automatic qualifying bid out of South America with one round of matches to play.
Getting a win in Ecuador will be most crucial for Uruguay who sit fifth because of the goal difference tie breaker and because they'll close out qualifying with a home match against group leaders Argentina while Ecuador will face Chile Tuesday in Santiago.
Long before he reached U.S. Men's National Team and Roma fame, Michael Bradley was just a kid running around Fire training watching the likes of Piotr Nowak, Hristo Stoichkov and Ante Razov kick around.
On Friday night, MLS Insider told the story of Michael's young years around the teams his father managed before becoming a professional at age 16 with the MetroStars.
Watch the segment below and catch the full edition of MLS Insider Episode 5 by clicking here.
If you've paid attention to Victor Pineda's story over the last year, you'll know that just making the U.S. U-20 roster was a challenge.
The Fire's original Homegrown player came close to making his competitive debut at the end of 2012 before a meniscus injury sidelined him through much of this year's preseason.
Ever resilient, Pineda recovered in time to join the U.S. U-20s and will hopefully take the field when Tab Ramos' side opens up the FIFA World Youth Championships Friday vs. Spain in Istanbul, Turkey (LIVE 1pm CT on ESPN2).
Yanks Abroad's Brian Sciaretta wrote this excellent piece on Pineda's road to Turkey.
The Chicago Fire's Chris Rolfe, Logan Pause and Frank Klopas took part in U.S. Soccer's Centennial celebration and World Cup qualifying viewing party Tuesday night at Chicago's Grant Park.
Check out photos from the event below:
Sean Johnson isn't the only player with Fire ties in U.S. Men's National Team camp. Former Fire first teamer DaMarcus Beasley and PDL product Brad Guzan joined Sean for the opening of training camp Monday in Denver.
In this video, Beasley talks his return to the national team while the Home Glen native Guzan the likely starter for Friday's match vs. Costa Rica and next Tuesday's all-important clash at Mexico.
Chicago Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson is in Honduras for this afternoon's opening Final Round CONCACAF qualifying match vs. los Catrachos (LIVE pre-game beginning at 2pm CT on beIN Sport).
It's unlikely Sean will see time in the match, much less even dress but the honor of being chosen is still great.
Check out video excerpts from Tuesday's pre-game press conference with head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and midfielder Michael Bradley here.
Also re-live the team's last visit to San Pedro Sula, a dramatic match in which the U.S. qualified for its sixth straight FIFA World Cup appearance, below:
Though he didn’t have all that much to do in the U.S. Men’s National Team’s 0-0 friendly draw vs. Canada last week, it seems clear the Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson remains in Jurgen Klinsmann’s plans after being one of three goalkeepers called in for Wednesday’s CONCACAF Final Round World Cup qualifier at Honduras (LIVE 3pm CT on beIN Sport).
The summons means Johnson will miss most of the team’s second phase of preseason camp in Ventura, Calif. but nearly a month of training with the national team won’t leave him out of shape.
Consistently called up since last August’s 1-0 friendly win at Mexico, the 90 minutes the fourth-year Fire ‘keeper earned in Wednesday’s draw seems to indicate Johnson is stating a strong case for the U.S. Men’s third goalkeeper shirt behind English Premier League veterans Tim Howard and backup Brad Guzan.
Should his form hold up and the U.S. Men navigate another difficult CONCACAF qualifying test, Johnson could find his way to Brazil next year.
There are still too many variables to allow anyone to get that far ahead and strong competition will remain from the likes of veteran Nick Rimando (injured for January camp), as well as Johnson’s friendly rival Bill Hamid.
While the trio wouldn't be expected to appear in this year's qualifying matches, with the U.S. expected to send a B-team to the this summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup, the tournament will likely serve as the next indication as to who Klinsmann favors for the presumable third spot.
Even if he’s not always playing in matches, the 23-year-old's continued inclusion in camps, working with the best ‘keepers American soccer has offer, can only help with his chances and his form for the Fire.
It should be an interesting year for Sean and the U.S...
Remember the last time the U.S. went to Honduras?
Trailing 1-0 just after the break, the U.S. used a brace from Conor Casey and a Landon Donovan free kick to eventually win the match 3-2 and qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Check out highlights below: