By Clemente Lisi – NEW YORK, NY (June 20, 2022) USA Football Players – The June International Window has ended. The schedule of friendlies and Nations League games for both CONCACAF and UEFA has filled time for many of us after most European seasons have ended. These European leagues will return when the calendar breaks again for the September window, the last international games before the start of the World Cup. It’s scheduled for September 19-27, with a time limit of two games.
Given the reset schedule for this World Cup, it’s hard to underestimate the importance of the June window. The list of participants in the World Cup is determined by the recent additions of Australia and Costa Rica, the winners of their respective play-off games, to the 32 teams. For some teams, the results of the League of Nations raised serious questions. Proper preparation in September is now important for all participants.
For the USMNT, the June camp was positive. The team beat Morocco and Grenada and drew with Uruguay and El Salvador. The last draw, a hard-fought game with a score of 1:1, took place on the road, in adverse weather and field conditions. Coach Gregg Berhalter has a lot of positives to take from these four games. As the USMNT gears up for the World Championship, here are five things to keep in mind as we wait for games in September.
Groups finally formed
This was a new version of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers with one game played at a neutral venue in Qatar rather than two legs. Australia and Peru take to the field with all World Cup teams on tight qualifying schedules to reach the final. Eight groups are equal, that is, they are all competitive. It’s very good for the game and the fans.
However, there is always a group that seems tougher than the rest, especially for one of the teams looking for an unexpected path. That’s how much Costa Rica earned by knocking out New Zealand. They play Spain, Japan and Germany in Group E, with European teams being favorites for the usual reasons. Australia has a little easier, she got into group D along with France, Tunisia and Denmark.
What about group B?
Wales joined Group B as the highest ranked team remaining in the UEFA play-offs. Unsurprisingly, they are joining the seeded side of England in the home country showdown alongside Wales and the USMNT. This is a group that the United States can certainly get out of, but past World Cups have shown that anything can happen.
England had a poor June window, including a 4–0 loss to Hungary in the League of Nations. After winning the World Cup qualifier play-offs, Wales had their own troubles in the Nations League. Iran was inactive during the window after Canada canceled a scheduled friendly in Vancouver. As players and pundits have reminded us, it’s still too early to have a clear idea of what teams will look like in September, and even more so in November.
Who are the first favorites?
The usual suspects are the favorites to win it. Brazil’s five-time champion will always be in the spotlight, as will Argentina. They represent the top two teams from South America. From Europe, defending champions France are the favorites, although no team has won the World Cup in a row since Brazil in 1962. Rounding out the list are England despite recent poor performances, a resurrected Spain reaching the Euro 2020 semi-finals, Germany and Portugal. Outsiders such as Belgium and the Netherlands may offer some surprises.
How the World Cup will affect the national leagues
The 2022-2023 European seasons should be interesting as they will need to be put on hold in order to host the winter World Cup. What this will mean in practice is the question. While leagues usually break into international windows in October and November, hosting the World Cup during the season is a new concept. Well, at least in Europe. For other parts of the world, including the United States, a World Cup during the season is a common thing.
Not this time for Major League Soccer, which will end the 2022 season on November 5th. Although the 2019 season ended on November 10, this would be the earliest season to end since 2002. At that time, the season usually ended in October. With an earlier start, MLS gets games. By moving the MLS Cup to early November, we have less of a chance of hosting some of the finals we’ve seen in cold weather cities.
Mexico in Group C, Canada in Group F
Mexico is facing questions about its offense and is looking for ways to convert chances. Their last result in June was a 1-1 draw in Jamaica in the Nations League, which reinforced the feeling that this team needed to solve problems. They will get an early start with a friendly match against Paraguay scheduled for August 31 in Atlanta.
Canada lost their last game in June in Honduras in the Nations League 2-1, once again showing the level of sophistication of away matches in Concacafe. Preparing for Belgium and Croatia is the same UEFA challenge that the rest of the World Cup field faces. UEFA hosts Nations League matches in September, which will prevent most European teams from participating in friendlies in the last international window before the World Cup.
Clemente Lisi is a regular contributor to US Soccer Players. He is also the author of The History of the World Cup: 1930–2018.
Other works by Clemente Lisi:
Photo by John Dorton – ISIPhotos.com