FIFA announced the draw for the extra-preliminary round of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers for the CONCACAF region this afternoon. As expected, they are using the FIFA World Rankings to determine the bottom ten national teams in the region with the cutoff being the March 2011 rankings. Those rankings will freeze in place the composition of the teams that enter the first three phases of the qualifying competition.
Here is the Extra Preliminary round draw (first leg host listed first):
Montserrat - Belize
Anguilla - Dominican Republic
US Virgin Islands - British Virgin Islands
Aruba - St. Lucia
Bahamas - Turks and Caicos
Ties to be played on 3 and 7 June, which intersects with the first round of group matches in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
The remaining CONCACAF sides join the surviving five teams at two stages. The middle 19 teams would enter the qualifiers in the second round group stage:
- Panama, Canada, Trinidad & Tobago, Haiti, Grenada, Antigua & Barbuda, Guyana, Suriname, El Salvador, Guatemala, St. Kitts/Nevis, Dominica, Barbados, Puerto Rico, St. Vincent/Grenadines, Netherlands Antilles, Cayman Islands, Nicaragua, Bermuda.
The six group winners would be joined by the top six CONCACAF teams in the semifinal round to be played next year:
- USA, Mexico, Honduras, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Cuba
The biggest beneficiary of the March lock-in is Cuba, who slipped out of the CONCACAF top six in the April FIFA ranking. Panama moved up a couple of spots, and Canada might have joined them in the top six as well, but now they will have to contend with a winner-take-all scenario in the second round group stage.
As for the Extra Preliminary round, the first three ties could see venue changes outside the country (Montserrat is a given because there literally is nowhere to play there), and I would be very interested to see if Belize actually play a qualifying match in their own country this cycle. I would favor the teams hosting the second leg but view the Virgin Islands derby and the Bahamas-TCI match as genuine tossups.