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SPORTS TALK : World Cup '94 : Teams Vie for Berths in 1994 World Cup


Eight soccer teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean are still in contention for a berth in the 1994 World Cup finals.

Two groups of four teams each will be in action through mid-December in the second round of what is essentially a three-round qualifying process for teams of CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Assn. Football).

Group A consists of Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Group B participants are Bermuda, Canada, El Salvador and Jamaica.

The teams play a round-robin format within their groups at various sites, with the top two teams from each group advancing to the third round. That round-robin competition is scheduled to start in January and continue through May.

With the exception of Canada and Mexico, the other six teams have been involved in preliminary matches since March. Costa Rica, El Salvador and Honduras survived the Central American zone rounds and Bermuda, Jamaica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines came out of the Caribbean zone. Mexico and Canada represent the North American zone.

"The Bahamas and Bermuda belong to the North American zone, but the Bahamas didn't field a team," said Scott Gleba, CONCACAF director of communications. "In order to have the North American zone represented in the third round, they moved Bermuda to the Caribbean zone (when the preliminaries started) and placed Mexico and Canada automatically in the third round."

The United States also belongs to the North American zone, but it qualifies for the finals automatically as the host country.

The winner of the CONCACAF third round moves into the 1994 Cup. The runner-up must beat the Oceania zone champion and the second-place finisher in one of the South American zone groups to qualify for the finals.

Conceivably, CONCACAF could have three member nations--including the host U.S. team--at the finals that will be played in nine U.S. cities from June 17 to July 17, 1994. The Rose Bowl in Pasadena will have eight matches, including one of the semifinals, the third-place match and the title match.

"This is the first time CONCACAF has the opportunity to place three teams in the finals," Gleba said. "Normally, CONCACAF is allotted only two spots."

The more CONCACAF teams involved in the finals, the more profitable the Cup finals could prove for the U.S. organizing committee, particularly if at least one of the teams is placed in the group that will play first-round matches June 17-30 at the Rose Bowl.

With the large Mexican and Central American population in the Los Angeles area, any of the Latin teams playing in that group most likely will draw well.

Mexico, if it survives the CONCACAF elimination rounds, would welcome the chance to play in Pasadena in front of potentially sizable partisan crowds. The Mexican team has not qualified for the Cup finals since reaching the quarterfinals on its own turf in 1986, losing to West Germany, 4-1.

Here is the schedule for the second round of CONCACAF elimination matches:

Group A

Nov. 11, St. Vincent and the Grenadines vs. Mexico; Costa Rica vs. Honduras.

Nov. 15, St. Vincent and the Grenadines vs. Costa Rica; Mexico vs. Honduras.

Nov. 22, St. Vincent and the Grenadines vs. Honduras; Mexico vs. Costa Rica.

Nov. 28, Honduras vs. St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Nov. 29, Costa Rica vs. Mexico.

Dec. 5, Honduras vs. Costa Rica.

Dec. 6, Mexico vs. St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Dec. 13, Costa Rica vs. St. Vincent and the Grenadines; Honduras vs. Mexico.

Group B

Oct. 18, Jamaica vs. Canada; Bermuda vs. El Salvador.

Oct. 25, El Salvador vs. Canada; Bermuda vs. Jamaica.

Nov. 1, Canada vs. Jamaica; El Salvador vs. Bermuda.

Nov. 8, Canada vs. El Salvador; Jamaica vs. Bermuda.

Nov. 15, Canada vs. Bermuda.

Nov. 22, Jamaica vs. El Salvador.

Dec. 6, Bermuda vs. Canada; El Salvador vs. Jamaica.

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