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Jurgen Klinsmann left puzzled by latest FIFA rankings


Photo by Jim Brown/USA Today Sports


FOXBORO, Mass.– Jurgen Klinsmann is far from concerned with his team’s drop in the latest FIFA rankings. Rather, the U.S. Men’s National Team head coach is more puzzled by how those rankings are calculated in the first place.

The U.S. dropped seven places in the most recent FIFA rankings, which listed the team at No. 34 despite recent wins over the Netherlands, Germany, Guatemala and Honduras. In addition, fellow CONCACAF powers Mexico and Costa Rica fared even worse, falling 17 and 27 spots, respectively.Meanwhile, non-traditional powers such as Wales and Romania each find themselves in the top 10 due to recent performances in European qualifying.

The rankings, which place added incentive for tournament wins rather than friendlies, are puzzling to Klinsmann, who says he has had issues with the calculation for years. With his team preparing for a Gold Cup match against Haiti, Klinsmann says that his team’s ranking is far from the first thing on his mind as the team continues on its tournament run.

“I don’t know how they work that thing, to be honest,” Klinsmann told media on Thursday. “I’ve always said that years ago when I was with Germany, too. If somebody could explain that to me, I don’t know. If there are teams that don’t play in a World Cup or a European Championship or a Copa America in the top 10, I don’t get it.

“Maybe it hurt us that we beat Germany and Holland so we dropped. I don’t know, but we’ll leave that up to them. That’s not something that steals my sleep.”

The U.S. should see its ranking improve after this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, which will provide as many as six matches to compile points from. The same can be said for Mexico, which has dropped to its lowest ranking since the FIFA rankings.

Several European nations saw their rankings jump dramatically after recent Euro qualifying results, while South American nations moved up courtesy of recent Copa America results. Argentina, which fell in the Copa America final, moved up to No. 1 in the World in the latest rankings, moving past reigning World Cup champions Germany, which endured some recent Euro qualifying disappointments.

What do you think of Klinsmann’s comments? How do you expect the USMNT’s ranking to be affected by the current Gold Cup?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. The way people are complaining, you’d think the rankings actually mean something. Sorry folks, but we’re a long way from getting a World Cup seed if we’re not hosting.

  2. As much as we all know how bogus the FIFA rankings are they do actually matter for World Cup Seeding.

    At the last WC Fifa determined the seeded pot by using the top 7 in the FIFA rankings as of October 2013 plus the host nation.

    For example Switzerland #7, Colombia #4, and Belgium #5 were all the seeded team in their WC groups last year. Its absolutely ridiculous that Switzerland and Colombia are seeded ahead of Italy, Netherlands, France, and England.

    Also, CONMEBOL had a total of 4 seeded teams last cycle, which is unusual. Usually they only get 2 (Brazil and Argentina). Since Brazil was host they were seeded, plus Argentina at #3, Colombia #4, and Uruguay #6.

    CONCACAF is a distinct disadvantage given our qualifying setup since the hexagonal results in fewer points opportunities. I like the idea of moving to a 10 or 8 team round robin. This would need to start a year earlier and would need to include a few scrub nations but for points it would help. If us or Mexico could accumulate enough points to raise to 7 or higher it would significantly decrease our chances of falling into the group of death.

    The way the pots are set up now. We are assured of nearly always getting a hard group unless we draw the host. Since CONCACAF qualifiers and ASIAN qualifiers are put into the same group and if you look at that pot the US and Mexico are the toughest teams.

    Hypothetically, CONCACAF could give byes to the six highest rated nations at the beginning of qualifying. The remaining for spots could be given to the winners of a preliminary round to weed out the worst of the scrubs. So you could end up with a final 10 that look something like this:

    Costa Rica
    Trinidad and Tobago
    El Salvador

    I wouldn’t mind watching and going to more qualifiers and I think the confederations of some of the weaker nations would go for this because making the final 10 round robin would be a huge incentive in terms of revenue given the tv rights for home games and gate receipts when the US or Mexico come to town.

  3. Not much to figure out. Built to favor teams that have the most money. That would not be CONCACAF,btw.

    Since I live and root for US, I will use Mexico as an example. Tney are a lock to make the Final 16 of the World Cup, because they are a top 16 team. Unless they were at negative 5, FALLING 17 spots doesnt make a lot of sense based on soccer playing.

  4. “and THEY say friendlies don’t really matter”…..when the USMNT looks lost/disorganized
    “and THEY say rankings are not important”…….when the USMNT drops due to a loss
    hahahaha……yeah right. Look at Klinsy trying to defend his 34th spot with accomplishments in FRIENDLIES.
    ………Food for thought

  5. Romania and Wales are ranked higher than Spain, Italy and France. You know a system is broken when teams are actually penalized for playing matches.

  6. It’s stupid that we should have to play extra games against Guatemala and other nations that, between sub-par fields and dirty play, are likely to lead to injuries for our players. We gain nothing from beating bunker ball teams with no talent.

  7. What i meant in the second to the last paragraph is to expand the Gold cup from 12 to 16 teams and add lower ranked CONMEBOL teams to the mix.

    • Hence the Copa America Centenario. This is exactly what is happening (though with more more CONMEBOL teams and fewer CONCACAF teams).

      Seriously, the people in charge actually do know what they are doing… Model this thing out in Excel (or whatever you use) and it’s actually very favorable for us…. the USSF is gaming this thing as well as anybody right now.

      • I’m pretty sure that Copa America matches will only count as friendlies for CONCACAF teams, since the CA is not their confederational championship. That’s the way it’s worked in the past.

      • No, FIFA would count the Centenario as a Confederation final.and beating higher ranked SA teams would yield to the US more ranking points outside of the World Cup. In fact, doing well at the Centenario and the Confed Cup,as well as future Gold Cups, would give the US potentially enough points to get a seed.

    • All this speculation and proposing is nice, but meaningless. There is a simple solution. When a CONCACAF team makes the WC semi-finals, then the next WC the top team from COPNCACAF will have a good chance at getting seeded. CONCACAF used to only get 3 teams in, then they got 3 plus a playoff with a COMEMBOL team, now 3 with a playoff with New Zealand. This improvement is because CONCACAF has been doing better in the last two World Cups. If CONCACAF continues to advance 3 out of its 4 teams into the knockout stages and one team gets as far as the semis, then our teams will get more respect and better rankings.

  8. Well. JK and the USSF should come up with a strategy to increase points from each match.
    I can help.
    Win as many game as you can in your federation championship (Gold Cup) Federation championships have a 3x multiplier. Don not play as many friendlies against low level teams like Guatemala. If you need to play friendlies; play and win against mid level teams from UEFA and CONMEBOL. Get to the Confed CUP. it also has a 3x multiplier.. World cup qualifiers have a multiplier of 2.5. GET invited and accept playing in the CONMEBOL confed tournament. just two wins there and you;ll have more points than if you played and won friendlies against Germany, Netherland and Spain combined

    Most importantly: WIN MORE THAN ONE GAME AT THE WORLD CUP. Costa Rica won three games at the WC that led to their 14 place FIFA ranking, when we do the same, we’ll be ranked higher,

    JK must also realize that after one year, points won at the last WC are deprecated, so the few points we won at the WC are worth even less now.

    Also realize that CONMEBOL just had their federation championship, and UEFA’s are ongoing, so CONMEBOL has already accrued as many big multiplier point games for the year as they will get, so South American teams will be static until their WC qualifiers begin, so they will sink down. UEFA still have a few games left and will accrue a lots of points still. expect the to go up or stay.

    If Concacaf wants to “play” the game under the rules that FIFA…er UEFA put down.. add more teams (and games) to the Gold Cup and WC qualifiers. Have “Octagonal” 8 teams instead of the Hexagonal (6) teams. those 4 extra games can accrue a hell of a lot more points for rankings. CONMEBOL has a about 12 teams in their round robin qualifying. That a lot of games with a big multiplier. Instead of 12 teams, play with 16 teams.

    At some point you reach a diminishing return on your games played. find out what that breakpoint is.

    We need to game the system if we want to get a WC ranking. THE USMNT is good enough for a better ranking, so lets stop crying and start “modeling”

    • :Most importantly: WIN MORE THAN ONE GAME AT THE WORLD CUP. Costa Rica won three games at the WC that led to their 14 place FIFA ranking, when we do the same, we’ll be ranked higher.”

      A nice theory, except that Costa Rica dropped 27 spots and is no longer 14, but 41 (though it is true that they dropped so much because those big point games no longer have as much weight, since they are now more than 12 months ago).

    • COMNEBOL has ten teams in its round robin qualifying. They’re lucky – because the CONFED’s size lends itself to that. Thus – in a non-COMNEBOL-hosted cycle each team gets 18 qualifying matches. That keeps the whole confederation high, point wise, because even nations has a high number of “competitive” matches. A HEX team like the US or MEX plays only 16 matches, five of which are second round matches against countries that may only have seven WCQM/cycle. Thus… even if the US or MEX beat CAN, CUB, or Guyana, it’s not worth many points because those nations are minnows due to not playing may competitive matches.

      The hard part is trying to get the minnows more qualifying matches without overtaxing them financially.

    • We ARE modeling…. why do people care what we are ranked in July of 2015?!? IT MEANS NOTHING! Everybody is ignoring the time factor in the formula, which more or less trumps any of this stuff. We get a spectacular load of competitive games in the years leading up to the WC (which are weighted more heavily based on the time component)

      Changing what we do so that we can have a better ranking 3 years out from a WC is pointless! The rankings today will mean nothing in 2017.

      The solitary best thing the US can do is get to the Confed Cup and do well, while also winning the Hex. Realistically, that is our only chance of getting a seed.

      • The top qualifier from each Confederation – excepting Oceana – deserves a seed. After that, scrap the rating system altogether unless it’s to determine who gets the #7 or #8 seed. Or else divide UEFA up into a minimum of three confederations – maybe Eastern, Central, and Western Europe – and then the winner of each gets a seed.

        What I’d personally do, is separate into two divisions. Nations with less than, say, three million people should be considered “Division II” or “Small Nations” or whatever and unless they apply for major-affiliation membership they should never see the big dogs. Have their own confederations, their own events, and even their own “Small Nations World Cup.” The winner of that might be extended an invite to the “Major Nations World Cup” the following year. CONCACAF needs to trim itself from a bunch of islands to the following:
        1) USA 2) Mexico 3) Canada 4) Costa Rica 5) Honduras 6) Panama 7) Jamaica 8) El Salvador 9) Guatamala 10) Nicaragua 11) Cuba 12) Haiti

        …and that’s it. Trinidad and Tobago has about 2.5 million people…if they want to apply for CONCACAF membership that’s their lookout, but they might be happier – and have more luck – playing in the Small Nations division, competing against the likes of Iceland for Small Nations World Cup titles, and maybe making the big show that way.

        This would do two things:
        1) Empower small confederations, giving small nations something more constructive to do than just sell their vote to the highest bidder…


        2) It would give small nations something meaningful to play for…and an actual path to the World Cup. Right now for a midget – even one like Iceland – to defy all odds and actually make the World Cup is a once-in-a-century accomplishment for most of these minor nations.

        Also, these minor nations have no business voting on where the actual participants of World Cups are going to be playing in those World Cups. All they use those votes for now is to sell them to whoever has payola in hand to pay for that vote. Why wouldn’t they? Kinda human nature. What else is their vote good for? It’s not like they get to play for something of substance or value the way things are structured now.

      • I like the idea. Its like have a first and second division for international play. You could even have it setup so that a few of the smaller nations that say reach the final of their tournament could get promoted to the first division and vice versa. You could see a team like Canada or Bulgaria relegated if they don’t play well.

        Most importantly, I think you’re absolutely right about dropping these tiny island nations. They all have an equal vote to nations like US and Mexico but these small nations have proven that in practice they just use their position within FIFA to line their pockets instead of investing the money back into their federations.

        Its time to drop them. another idea is to create a catch all confederation for these small island and non competitive nations. It could be call Oceania still and it could be given a full spot for the WC instead of 0.5, but we would have to move all the Caribbean nations and Oceania into it as well as nations like Faroe Islands, Andorra, Nicaragua, etc.

      • WOW… that is a supremely well thought out, lucid, cogent, argument. Too bad it will NEVER EVER happen.

        More realistically, we could see some sort of automatic seeding for the world cup pots… but really that would piss of UEFA most of all… because they were the prime beneficiaries of the current (and preceeding) seeding system…

        It originally basically worked to split the groups into groups with one EU and one COMNEBOL team… then assuming those were good teams, it set them up to move on. You got groups of death in those days, when there were not enough filler nations, and you got 2EU or 2COMNEBOL teams in a group… or you got the group with 2EU teams and the Cameroon (or old 90’s pre-crash Nigeria). Now, the group of death is basically decided by where the CONCACAF teams line up… which is wrong, because the top dog in concacaf shouldn’t be rewarded by being dropped into a group with a strong EC team.

        But again, this would piss off the EC because that is CONCACAF displacing 1 EC team in the seedings (usually France, Switzerland, Portugal, etc.) so we will just have to live with it for now.

        Realistically, I could see this done if combined with an expansion of the world cup pool… i.e.

        10 america’s teams, 12 EC teams, 10 for Africa and Asia, (if Australia stays, or 12 for Africa/Asia if oceania disappears with an extra spot for Americas and Europe too). Then you could see auto-seeding for the winner of Concacaf, Comnebol, EU, Africa, and Asia…. but is any asian qualifying or cup winner stronger than Argentina (regardless of the fact that they qualify or fail to win their cup?)… that will always be the problem.

    • The way the system is set up, CONCACAF teams have to stop playing friendlies and start holding confederation championships on an almost yearly basis in order to compete with the Wales and Romanias of the world.

  9. Mexico will get more points for demolishing half the Cuban team in “neutral” Houston than we earned with the victories in Amsterdam and Germany combined. The formula is rigged to favor Europe. By coincidence, the system also helps the other associations with large number of members, so we’re basically left without recourse of changing it via vote.

    Cuba should be suspended from 2017 Gold Cup for this joke of a match.

    • Does it really help CONFEDs that have large numbers of members? Does this arrangement really help CAF and AFC federations? By number, those and CONCACAF control close to a majority of the federations.

      • It helps federations with large numbers that are rich enough to play a lot of “competitive” games. Basically the system is designed to benefit Europe, Surprise.

        Because Europe is so large and the federations are rich (even the minnows comparatively) and can make money (for both sides) off powers vs minnows qualifying for Euro Cup involves a huge amount of games. Concacaf and AFC don’t do this because the minnows can’t afford it. (Africa is even more so as they play limited WC qualifying games).

  10. Just like we were left puzzled when you left the best soccer player in US history out of the World Cup squad.

    • They left Cobi Jones off the roster? I thought he retired years ago?

      Seriously, just let it go. Otherwise your gravestone will read:

      El Comandante
      Born 19?? – Died 20??
      “He spent every day of his waking life complaining that Landon Donovan was left off of the 2014 World Cup roster”

      • “homerica 7 hiding his true identity because never understood soccer and would be ashamed to demonstrate such lack of knowledge about the game”

  11. Somehow, all of this is still surprising to people. It’s about math and a formula that is designed to be “accurate” exactly once (i.e. Nov/Dec 2017, when the 2017 World Cup seedings are announced). Had we won every single match since the World Cup, we would almost certainly have still dropped in the rankings. We will have our chance to come up over the next three years, starting with this Gold Cup (though really, 2016 and 2017 matter much more). The basic rubric– win your competitive matches!

      • The U.S. was ranked #5 by the FIFA ranking formula at the time of the 2006 draw for the World Cup in Germany, meaning the US should have been automatically seeded in Pot A.

        However, this gave the FIFA ExecCo a sad, since Italy was left outside the top 8 seeds, so FIFA tweaked and jiggery poked the formula for seeding teams by counting “past performance” until they had a Pot A that included Italy at the expense of the U.S.

  12. Those rankings have always been more silly than not. Doing it by numbers is fine in theory, as it takes away subjectivity and thus opens doors faster for new names to rise. But as we’ve seen with the BCS in college football, the devil is in the details – and the BCS got a whole lot closer to ‘right’ than the FIFA rankings have ever been.

    How do I expect the Gold Cup to affect the rankings? Well, I suppose I have to trust the article on that one. How much do I care? I’d rather we lift the cup than lift our number.

    • Winning after using 6 subs shouldn’t be worth more than winning with 3 subs in a game that matters.

      • Winning against Andorra, Faroe Islands, Gibrater and such in Euro Qualifiers shouldn’t be worth more than winning against Germany or Netherlands on the road in any scenario. Wales and Romania have no business being in the top 20 let alone the top 10. Switzerland was able to game the rankings to get seeded for the last World Cup and it appears Wales and Romania have used the same formula.

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