Why? Because it's the World Cup. Leave me alone.
The World Cup draw is Friday, and FIFA has finally ditched its really unbelievably complicated seeding scheme for straight FIFA rankings, which screw you Sepp Blatter. In 2006 the USA would have received a seed if they'd gone with that.
Anyway, here's a hypothetically totally fair draw with each team given a seed corresponding to its FIFA ranking, with the team's Soccer Power Index (a Nate Silver joint) in parens afterwards:
|Seed||Team A||SPI||Seed||Team B||SPI||Seed||Team C||SPI||Seed||Team D||SPI||Avg|
|3||Holland||4||14||Ivory Coast||9||19||Australia||22||30||New Zealand||91||38.5|
The USA is in the second-worst group but even that group seems far more doable and balanced than what they got in '06 and what they're staring down on Friday. The Silver average reveals everyone's main desire: get drawn in the same group as South Africa, New Zealand, and/or North Korea. Those teams are all horrendous relative to the field.
Unfortunately, That's not happening unless the USA pulls the 1-in-8 longshot and slips into the South Africa group:
Pot 1 will consist of the eight seeded teams and will be drawn into groups at the outset of the Friday's event.
Pot 2 consists of CONCACAF, Asia and Oceania and will be drawn, next with no restrictions as to where those eight teams can be drawn.
The USA cannot draw in with Australia, North Korea, New Zealand, or South Korea, the #19, 28, 29, 30, and 31 teams in the tournament according to FIFA. Nor can they get in with #27 Honduras, but we knew that already. In sum: YAY. There is one team in its pot that the US wouldn't want to get drawn with: Mexico. The other six teams are the weakest in the field with the exception of Australia. The CONCACAF powers are worse off than any other team with a chance of advancing to the second round.
Why don't the World Cup doyens do it like this anyway? There's only one group that has an overload of one federation—Group 8 has three UEFA teams—and that can be fixed by flipping Ghana and Slovakia. If you want to separate Chile and Brazil you can just flip Chile with the Ivory Coast. You get geographical dispersion, seriously reduced chances at Groups of Death, and a fairer tournament all around.