FIFA's rankings -- go figure

June, 30, 2011
06/30/11
8:53
AM ET

The new FIFA World Rankings came out Wednesday in that parallel universe that soccer's world governing body occupies, where accountability is a futuristic concept and results have no bearing on standings.

It behooved the fabulously complicated point system -- which is used to decide on seeding ahead of qualification for World Cups and the like -- to bump England up to fourth place. This came on the back of a disastrous World Cup and a paltry 2-2 tie with Switzerland in a recent Euro 2012 qualifier, in which the Three Lions twice had to overcome a deficit. Before that, they had drawn Ghana and beaten Wales 1-0.

And this while Brazil has dropped to fifth place and Argentina has sunk to 10th.

The U.S., meanwhile, fell two spots, to 24th, continuing its slide from 11th place after finishing second at the 2009 Confederations Cup and having spent the past two years in the teens. What's striking about this is that the U.S. won four competitive games this month in a major continental tournament -- or something so designated by FIFA, anyway -- and reached the final of the Gold Cup. That very tournament was responsible for Mexico's rocketing up the standings from 28 to 9 after El Tri lifted the trophy in Pasadena.

Perhaps this is what they call the "new math."

Even though Mexico beat the U.S. and won all of its games -- and taking into account that the U.S. got no credit for beating Guadeloupe, which FIFA doesn't recognize -- it's hard to explain how Mexico gained 205 points and the U.S. lost 56. Since totals are tabulated for the past four years' worth of results for each team, the United States' 2011 Gold Cup results replaced those of the 2007 Gold Cup, which the U.S. won. Even so, Mexico came second in that tournament, failing to shed a light on its spectacular point gain and the United States' big loss.

Go figure.

Leander Schaerlaeckens

Contributing writer, ESPN.com
Leander Schaerlaeckens is a contributing writer for ESPN.com. He has previously written for The Guardian, The Washington Times and UPI.

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