U.S. begins final round of WCQ vs. Mexico

There probably haven't been many other tournament draws with as little drama attached as the one announcing the schedule for next year's final round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The six participants were already known, and the only items revealed were the dates on which the games would take place.

This lack of excitement wasn't lost on U.S. head coach Bob Bradley.

"I joked with someone this morning when they asked, 'How'd the draw go?' and I said 'We play every team twice," Bradley said. "I wasn't just being a wise-guy. I've learned that despite all the things you hear before draws take place, once it begins, you never know what's going to happen. From there it's just an ability to concentrate on each game."

That said, the USA's quest to reach the finals in South Africa begins with a whopper, as they will play host to Mexico on Feb. 11. While the venue for the match has yet to be decided, finding a location as close to the Arctic as possible is the unquestioned aim of U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati.

"We certainly aren't going to be playing Mexico in southern California or Florida for obvious reasons," said Gulati, who later joked, "Of course, if Mexico agree to play at sea level in Monterrey, then maybe I could convince [Bradley] to play in one of those places."

Gulati later added: "We're going to play the game in a venue that will give us the best chance of winning. It's very likely to be a place where the temperature might be a little lower."

The remainder of the schedule alternates away and home games until rounds eight and nine, when the U.S. plays both Trinidad and Tobago and Honduras on the road. The Yanks then conclude qualifying with a potentially tricky encounter at home to Costa Rica, although Bradley will no doubt be hoping that the U.S. will have already qualified by the time that game takes place.

One complication will occur in early June, just prior to when the U.S. leaves for the Confederations Cup in South Africa. The match away to Costa Rica, originally scheduled for June 10, will be moved to June 3. The USA will then play Honduras at home three days later.

As for when the venues would be decided, Gulati indicated that in the next 10 days, the USSF would have a "complete matrix" of places that would be considered, adding that stadiums with artificial turf and temporary grass fields would not be considered.

"Right after Thanksgiving, we'll internally try to finalize those venues," said Gulati.

Jeff Carlisle is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.