USA draws England, Iran and possibly Ukraine in World Cup group stage

Qatar — The United States will play either Ukraine, Wales or Scotland in its World Cup opener, then meet England and Iran in its return to the tournament.

The 15th-ranked Americans were drawn Friday to start against the European playoff winner on Nov. 21, the tournament’s opening day in Qatar, then meet No. 5 England on Nov. 25 and close the group stage against No. 21 Iran on Nov. 29.

No. 39 Scotland meets 27th-ranked Ukraine in June in a playoff delayed because of Russia’s attack on Ukraine. The winner meets No. 18 Wales for a World Cup berth, a match also scheduled for June.

The U.S. famously upset England 1-0 at the 1950 World Cup at Belo Horizonte, Brazil, then opened the 2010 tournament with a 1-1 draw against the Three Lions in South Africa. Steven Gerrard put England ahead in the fourth minute at Rustenberg, but Clint Dempsey tied the score in the 40th when his 25-yard shot skipped off the grass twice and bounced in off Robert Green’s hand.

Iran upset the U.S. 2-1 at the 1998 World Cup in France, eliminating the Americans after their second game. Hamid Estili scored in the 40th minute and Mehdi Mahdavikia in the 94th at Lyon, and current U.S. men’s national team general manager Brian McBride scored in the 87th.

This year’s World Cup is the first moved from its traditional June/July period, a shift to get away from the summer heat in the desert. As a result, the tournament will be played in the middle of European club seasons and overlap with the NFL and college football seasons in the U.S.

Since losing to Germany in the 2002 quarterfinals, the U.S. was eliminated in the group stage in 2006 and the round of 16 in 2010 and 2014, then failed to qualify for the 2018 tournament.

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