Saturday Night's Alright For Qualifying


Not that there was much concern — was there? — but officials at ESPN and Univision, FIFA’s World Cup rights-holders in the States, can rest a lot easier now.

It became official Saturday night: both the U.S. and Mexico national teams qualified for the 2010 World Cup last night.  As the first- and second-ranked teams in the CONCACAF region, the U.S. (11th globally, according to futbol’s international governing body) and Mexico (24th) were both expected to participate in South Africa next June-July.  But the qualifying path is not always smooth.

The 3-2 win by Sam’s Army against politically divided Honduras in San Pedro Sula wasn’t secured until Carlos Pavon’s penalty kick sailed above goalkeeper Tim Howard and the cage in the 87th minute and his open-header missed its target two minutes later. The match, which featured a pair of goals by Conor Casey and captain Landon Donovan’s-bending-it-like-his-favorite-LA-Galaxy-teammate free kick, was only available on closed circuit. Thus, fans unwilling to, or unable to find a locale to shell out $20 or more, were left to follow on ESPN’s bottom line and game cast.

With Telemundo supplying the images, El Tri, which, at times appeared to be in disarray during the CONCACAF process, disposed of El Salvador much more easily, gaining a 4-1 triumph at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City and presumably millions of viewers Stateside.

As U.S. rights-holders to the World Cup, Univision officials were much more open in talking about what Mexico joining FIFA’s final party would mean for ratings, while the folks in Bristol discussed matters in much more more professional tones. Although it would certainly be nice to have the Yanks along for the ride, the worldwide leader would cover the tournament as the global spectacle it is, with or without the U.S.

Sure. But it’s always much more friendly for the Nielsens to have a local involved, particularly in the group stage.

Now, none of the four teams have to worry until FIFA’s final draw is declared on Dec. 4 in Cape Town.