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The Road To The 2014 World Cup Begins Friday For USMNT

Around the world, qualifying matches for the 2014 Brazil World Cup -- yes, it's still two years away -- are under way this week, and the U.S. national team plays its opening game of qualifying Friday in Tampa against the mighty little island nation of Antigua and Barbuda.

No offense to anyone from that Caribbean nation. But A and G (which has a population of some 80,000 inhabitants in all) beating the United States on the road in a meaningful soccer match would definitely be a shot heard 'round the world. An upset of gargantuan proportions.

Qualifying for the CONCACAF region opens Friday, so Mexico and Canada also have matches. The U.S. game is at 4 p.m. in Phoenix on ESPN.

The Yanks are 6-5-2 in friendlies under coach Jurgen Klinsmann, hired 11 months ago. They've lost or failed to win some games many thought they should have won, but Klinsmann's crew had a streak of wins until recently when it lost to Brazil in Washington D.C. and drew with Canada in Toronto.

It's hard to tell what one will see from the Americans, which makes their matches something close to must-see TV. There are some bonafide international stars on the team, too, like Clint Dempsey (who plays for English club Fulham FC) and Landon Donovan of the Los Angeles Galaxy.

The U.S. is in a four-team group that also includes Jamaica and Guatemala. It plays in Guatemala City on June 12.

The top two teams in each of the three CONCACAF groups make up the six that will play for three guaranteed World Cup spots. The U.S. is expected to finish second to Mexico overall, and go to its sixth straight World Cup.

While we're on the soccer kick, special shout out to FC Tucson, who beat the Ogden Outlaws 3-0 Thursday. FCT leads the United Soccer Leagues/Premier Development League Southwest Division with 18 points in its first season in the league.