The World Cup draw won't be held until Friday, but already the U.S. appears to be facing a difficult chore if it hopes to advance out of group play in Brazil next summer.
The 32 teams will be drawn in eight four-team groups Friday, with one team in each group coming from the four pots announced Tuesday.
The first pot consists of the seven seeded teams, plus Brazil. The second pot is made up of the African and unseeded South American teams, and the fourth pot is the nine unseeded European teams. (Before the draw begins, one of these European teams will be randomly transferred to the second pot to create four equal-sized pots.)
That leaves the U.S., as expected, in Pot 3 with the other three CONCACAF qualifiers and four Asian teams.
That's significant because it means the U.S. cannot be drawn into a group with any of the other teams from its pot -- all teams ranked below the U.S. in the FIFA world rankings and all teams the U.S. would be favored to beat.
Instead, the U.S. will be grouped with one of the seeded teams, a European power and an African or South American team.
The U.S. must finish in the top two in its group in June to advance to the World Cup's knockout stage.
Pot 1: Brazil, Spain, Germany, Argentina, Colombia, Belgium, Uruguay and Switzerland.
Pot 2: Chile, Ecuador, Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Nigeria.
Pot 3: Australia, Iran, Japan, Republic of Korea, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico and U.S.
Pot 4: Portugal, Italy, Netherlands, Greece, England, Croatia, France, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Russia.