SPI preview for 2014 qualifying
With the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification draw now set, ESPN's Soccer Power Index (SPI) has simulated the entire World Cup qualification 10,000 times. Below is a rundown of how the CONCACAF and CONMEBOL regions shape up.
As a reminder, SPI is a predictive algorithm designed to forecast future soccer events internationally and domestically in Europe. We can use SPI to find individual match predictions, international tournament predictions, or domestic club league predictions. For a full list of our international rankings, click here.
Mexico is a near-lock to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, according to SPI, with a 95.6 percent chance to earn one of CONCACAF's three automatic berths to the tournament. No other nation in CONCACAF is over 57% and Honduras (56.5), the United States (54.1) and Costa Rica (53.6) are all virtually inseparable for the two remaining automatic berths.
The team that finishes fourth during the final stage of qualifying will enter into an inter-confederation home-and-home playoff against the top finisher from Oceania. The only team from Oceania ranked in the top 100 of the SPI is New Zealand, which is 69th. SPI gives Honduras, the United States, Costa Rica and Jamaica each approximately a 20 percent chance of appearing in that playoff. The last time a CONCACAF side faced an Oceania side in a qualifying playoff was ahead of the 1994 World Cup, when Canada drew Australia 3-3 on aggregate but lost 4-1 in a penalty shootout.
The United States has qualified for each of the last six World Cups, the longest current streak of any CONCACAF nation, and it has automatically qualified for all six.
Brazil has automatically qualified for the 2014 FIFA World Cup by virtue of hosting it, so South America could wind up with as many six teams qualified for the tournament. The top four teams will automatically qualify for the World Cup while the fifth-place team will enter into an inter-confederation home-and-home playoff with a team from Asia.
SPI gives 2011 Copa America champion Uruguay the best chance in South America to qualify for the tournament, giving it a 92.2 percent chance to earn one of the four automatic spots. Argentina and Chile are also heavy favorites to qualify for the World Cup, with both coming in at over 80%. Paraguay checks in at 59.8 percent likely to earn South America's final automatic qualifying spot.
The biggest beneficiary of Brazil's absence from qualifying could be Colombia, which hasn't qualified for the World Cup since 1998 but has a 22.2 percent chance to appear in the inter-confederation playoff against Asia. Ecuador, which qualified for the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, has a 19.6 percent chance to each to reach the playoff.
In another installment of our blog, we will begin to analyze each group from the UEFA region, which is split into eight groups for the duration of qualifying. Group winners automatically advance to the 2014 World Cup. The top eight group runners-up (all but one) advance to a playoff round with other second-place finishers.