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Friday, May 26, 2006

FIFA to adopt new world rankings

FIFA is adopting a new world soccer ranking system to rate the world's top teams.

This will be released on July 12, three days after the World Cup ends.

"We don't think it's that bad at all, but there is always room for improvement," FIFA spokesman Andreas Herren said.

Under the ranking system, FIFA will take into account games played over the last four years.

Under the old system, it counted results over the last eight, which distorted current form.

FIFA's old system awarded team ranking points based on the importance of the games, relative strength of teams, goals scored and conceded, home or away, etc.

The new system takes into account most of the same factors, but weights them differently.

Major discrepancy

Under the old scheme, the United States rose to No 4 in April's rankings, its highest ever position.

The eye-popping rise occurred just a few weeks after the Americans were hammered 4-1 by World Cup host Germany.

"Maybe some guys were looking at that ranking a little bit too seriously," American goalkeeper Kasey Keller said after the loss.

The Americans have slipped slightly in the most recent poll, the last before the World Cup opens on June 9, into a tie for fifth with Spain.

Few serious soccer fans would place the Americans in the world's top 10, probably not even the top 15. A spot between 15 and 25 is more realistic.

Team rankings

Under FIFA's present system, five world soccer powers are ranked behind the US: France (8), Argentina (9), England (10), Italy (13) and Germany (19).

The only teams ranked ahead of the US in the May rankings were five-time World Cup champion Brazil, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Mexico.

Mexico's ranking also raises eyebrows. It probably should be ranked behind the Americans.

In the last 10 games between the two countries, the United States has won seven, including a 2-0 win in the round of 16 in the World Cup four years ago.

Mexico has two victories in that period.

Over a 20-game span dating back to 1994, the US have beaten Mexico nine times, with the Mexicans winning seven. Four were draws.

Seeking change

So why are the Americans and Mexicans so high in the present FIFA rankings?

Under the old system, FIFA gave the most weight to games in the World Cup finals, the continental championships and World Cup qualifiers.

The region in which the US is grouped, CONCACAF, plays a continental championship every two years. In Europe, it's every four.

In addition, CONCACAF plays almost 50 per cent more World Cup qualifiers than the average European country.

Under the new system, FIFA will adjust for these factors - and adjust more for the relatively weak CONCACAF group.

World Cup host Germany, which slipped to No 19, also suffered under the old system. As it qualified automatically for this World Cup, Germany played no qualifying games.

Egypt, the African Cup of Nations champion, is ranked two spots above Germany. Greece, the defending European champion, Tunisia, Uruguay and Iran are ranked right behind Germany. (AP)