COSTA DO SAUIPE, Brazil (AP) — The United States could wind up in a group with powers Brazil, Italy and the Netherlands after FIFA tinkered with its format for Friday’s World Cup draw.
The Americans also could be in a Brazil-Portugal-Netherlands group for next year’s tournament in Brazil.
Or they could end up with what would appear to be a relatively easy pairing with Switzerland, Greece and Algeria.
FIFA could have placed France, the lowest-ranked unseeded European team, into a pot with Africa and the unseeded South American teams. Instead, the nine unseeded European teams will go into a bowl and one will be selected for that pot at the start of the draw.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter said the decision followed talks with confederation presidents, including Michel Platini, the French president of Europe’s governing body. Blatter sidestepped a question asking him to explain a procedure that seemingly ignored FIFA’s own precedent and favored France.
“Let us (hold the) draw and not let us speak of teams,” Blatter said.
Each group will include a team from each of the four pots.
Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, Germany, Spain, Switzerland and Uruguay are the seeded teams and will be in Pot 1.
Chile and Ecuador will be in Pot 2, along with the selected European team and Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Nigeria.
Making its seventh straight World Cup appearance, the U.S. will be in Pot 3 along with regional rivals Costa Rica, Honduras and Mexico, and Asian nations Australia, Iran, Japan and South Korea.
France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands and Portugal will start in Pot 4 along with Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, England and Russia.
No more than one team from a region may be in the same group, except for Europe, which may have two teams in a group.
FIFA’s World Cup organizing committee also declined to switch 1 p.m. kickoffs in Fortaleza, Natal, Recife and Salvador despite concerns by the international players’ union FIFPro over heat and humidity in tropical areas.
FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke confirmed FIFA’s budgeted commitment to increase World Cup prize money by around one-third, but the exact breakdown will be decided later this week. FIFA shared $348 million among the 32 participating federations in 2010, including a minimum $8 million. Champion Spain received $30 million.
Next year’s prize fund will be $454 million.