On Wednesday FIFA announced it has approved a new procedure for the 2018 World Cup draw utilizes the FIFA World Rankings to seed teams.
So what's this mean for the US national team, should they recover from this month's adversity to qualify for an eighth straight World Cup? It's hard to say.
Pots 1, 2, 3 and 4 will all be based on the world rankings (plus host Russia in Pot 1), with one team drawn from each pot into each group. This is a departure from previous years, when the lower three pots were assigned based on continental federation.
But in 2018, teams sill won't be permitted to be drawn into the same group as another team from their confederation, with the usual exception of UEFA, which can have up to two teams in each group. (It's unclear exactly how FIFA will avoid this with the new system).
Projected 2018 World Cup pots, based on Sept. FIFA rankings & SPI's most likely participants. Group of Brazil/Spain/Italy anyone? pic.twitter.com/gjcpuAcSQ5— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) September 14, 2017
The Tweet above from ESPN's Paul Carr shows just how the pots might break down. In this scenario, the dream group might look something like Poland, Peru and Burkina Faso. The nightmare would be along the lines of Germany, Spain and Nigeria.
The theory behind the shift is that using the rankings should improve competitive balance among the groups. That's only as good as the accuracy of FIFA's rankings, though.
And if you believe traditional powers like France, Spain and Italy are currently better than Poland and Switzerland, regardless of rankings, then you probably believe the new procedure could introduce more group-to-group disparity. Not less.