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World Cup 2010
SI's Grant Wahl analyzes Team USA's fortunate World Cup draw and its opening-round match with England next summer. The U.S. last played England in 2008, in a 2--0 loss at Wembley Stadium
If you're the U.S., playing your toughest group game first is a good thing. (Remember its big win over Portugal in the 2002 World Cup opener?) What's more, England is a traditionally slow-starting team in World Cups. Still, there's even more to the U.S.'s lucky draw. If the Yanks advance to the knockout rounds, the World Cup bracket structure will allow them to avoid meeting any of the top four teams in the FIFA rankings (Spain, Brazil, the Netherlands, Italy) until the semifinals. That's right: The world's top four teams are all on the other side of the bracket. What does this all mean? It means the U.S. will have no excuses if it fails to reach at least the knockout rounds. It won't matter if the Americans are still missing key players like Charlie Davies, Jay DeMerit and Oguchi Onyewu due to injury. It won't matter because this is just about the kindest draw you could imagine.
SI writers also take an in-depth look at Team USA goalie Tim Howard (left) and break down
David Beckham's chances of making England's national team at SI.com/soccer Plus ...