World Cup update
We're also inching closer to having a field for the tournament.
Here, as I will occasionally do in this space, is a look at where qualifying stands in each region:
The final group matches in Round 2 will be played Sept. 6. The 10 group winners will advance to Round 3 and be drawn into five series from which the World Cup qualifiers will come. Ethiopia (Group A), Tunisia (B), Ivory Coast (C), Egypt (G) and Algeria (H) are in for that next round. Ghana and Zambia (D); Congo, Burkina Faso and Gabon (E); Nigeria and Malawi (F); Libya, Cameroon and Democratic Republic of Congo (I); and Senegal and Uganda (I) are all still mathematically alive in their respective groups.
This part of the world is never hesitant with its qualifying phase. After group play in Round 4, the four World Cup qualifiers are set: Iran and South Korea out of Group A and Japan and Australia out of Group B. Uzbekistan and Jordan will play a series, and the winner will advance to an intercontinental playoff for a World Cup berth.
Most sides still have three or four matches remaining in group play, so there is still a lot of ground left to cover. With that in mind, we'll leave well enough alone for the time being and link to the current standings. The nine group winners advance to the World Cup, and the eight best group runners-up will be drawn into four series to determine the remaining European spots.
NORTH/CENTRAL AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN
Now in Round 4, well known as the Hexagonal, the United States leads on 13 points, two ahead of Costa Rica and five ahead of third-place Mexico, which after six matches has a 1-0-5 record. With four matches left, the top three advance to the World Cup, and the fourth-place side heads to a playoff.
This region is an easy one to explain, much like Asia, because we're done - New Zealand is through to the next round and awaits the CONCACAF fourth-place team in a playoff for a World Cup berth.
Brazil has a berth automatically as the host, and its remaining neighbors are locked in a tight battle. With four matches left in group play for most sides, it's a lot like Europe with a lot of ground left to cover. Here are the current standings.
We'll revisit things when business picks back up in September and October, and by then, we can guarantee much more clarity in the race for 2014.
- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH