The road to the FIFA World Cup
begins with the each country establishing their National Teams ("NT"). The United States National Team is
selected and operated by the United States Soccer Federation.
The path to being selected to the USA's WNT (women's) and MNT
(men's) team begins in the early
years. Youth players competing in any of the USSF affiliated
organizations such as USYSA and US Club, amongst others, tryout for
recognition teams such as the Olympic Development Program ("ODP") as
early as age 12 or 13. Once identified in these programs they
compete to move up the ranks in their states region; and eventually the
finest players are selected to represent their age groups national team,
as early as U14. From there various USSF coaches recommend players
for select tryouts. Players are competing for spots on these teams
throughout their youth including high school, college and beyond.
The NT may consist of players from college, amateur, semi-pro and
professional teams. Professional teams winning their league title
have no consideration in NT selections. Only players may end up
being selected by the NT head coach, never a team.
All NT's play in various international tournaments and games ("friendlies")
against other worldwide NT's teams in preparation for the only FIFA World Cup qualifying tournament within their particular region .
For the US NT this region is CONCACAF, The Confederation of
North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football.
Some of the tournaments for women include include the Algarve Cup, Pan
American Games, Peace Queen Cup
The CONCACAF is the preeminent competition for
national teams in North American and it crowns the Confederation’s
champion. New in 2009 is the CONCACAF Champions League which
replaces the Champions Cup.
The CONCACAF winner and
runner-up qualify to compete in the FIFA World Cup. The
third-place finisher from the CONCACAF faces the winner of the Asian
Football Confederation in a home-and-away playoff for the final berth to
the FIFA tournament.
The host of the FIFA World Cup automatically qualifies for the tournament
regardless of how they finish in any conference play.
The FIFA World Cup is
recognized as the most important International competition in soccer
(football) and is played amongst national football teams of the
member states of FIFA, the sport's global governing body. The current format has
sixteen teams competing every four years for the winner's trophy
The participants qualify through the regional football confederations of
Oceania (OFC), Europe (UEFA), North America, Central America and the
Caribbean (CONCACAF), South America (CONMEBOL), Asia (AFC) and Africa (CAF).
The competition takes place over the course of three weeks. In the group
stage, 16 teams seeded into four groups (A,B,C, and D) compete against
each other in a round-robin tournament. In the knockout phase, the top
two teams from each group advance to the quarterfinals, a
single-elimination tournament in which teams play each other in one-off
matches, with extra time and penalty shootouts used to decide the winner
if necessary. The winner of Group A plays the runner-up of Group B, The
winner of Group B plays the runner-up of Group A, etc. The winners of
the four quarterfinal games move on to the semifinal matches, which
determine the contestants for the championship game. The losing
semifinalists compete to determine third place.