Once again, the US men's soccer team is rising in the FIFA rankings. I'm beginning to detect a pattern here.
Let's see if I have the timeline straight:
- Fresh off the 2002 World Cup, and their deepest advance since Methuselah was but a wee lad, the US goes on a rampage through CONCACAF.
- FIFA raises our ranking to #4 in the world.
- US draws the Group of Death for the 2006 WC.
- Czech Republic 3-0 USA
- Italy 1-1 USA
- Ghana 2-1 USA
- FIFA drops the US team back down to #31, effectively declaring them the second worst team in the 32-team field.
- Fresh off their utter humiliation in 2006, the US goes on a rampage through CONCACAF.
Now we're back up to #16, between Greece and Sweden. I'm sure winning the Gold Cup will boost that ranking even more. Barring a big letdown between now and the next WC qualifiers, I expect to see the US team back in the top 10 by time the 2010 group draw comes around.
Hey, winning your region earns you a place in the field, but that doesn't mean the US deserves to be over-promoted. Penn's men's basketball team won the Ivy League this year, but the NCAA wasn't foolish enough to give them a top-3 seed in the Tournament.
CONCACAF is like the National League West: A bunch of not-bad to decently good teams who struggle outside of their own division.
To quote the sanitized-for-television Winston Wolfe: Let's not start sucking each other's popsicles quite yet.