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USMNT drops seven places to No. 34 in latest FIFA Rankings

USMNTStartingXI1-HondurasGoldCup2015 (Getty)


U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann probably won’t want to check his phone or computer this morning.

The U.S. were handed a shock as they dropped seven spots in FIFA’s July World Rankings, finally settling at No. 34. It’s tied for the lowest ranking for the USMNT since 1993, joining 2011 at the lowly rank of 34th-place.

The drop in rankings comes off a great month for the USMNT, with friendly match victories over Germany, the Netherlands, and Guatemala, before a Gold Cup victory against Honduras that was included in the rankings.

However, a reason for the precipitous fall is exactly because three of those four matches were friendlies. The U.S. also lost a lot of points outside the rankings, including 2011 Gold Cup wins over Canada, Jamaica, and Panama, which earned the U.S. around 1,000 points each. To put it in perspective, the U.S. only earned a little more than 1,000 points from their wins over Germany and the Netherlands.

Many European nations made a big jump in the rankings after key wins in Euro 2016 qualifying, including Hungary jumping 11 places to No. 31, Iceland moving up 14 places to No. 23, and Wales advancing 12 places to No. 10.

Despite the USA’s fall in CONCACAF, Mexico and Costa Rica actually fared worse. As of July 2015, the U.S. is now the highest ranking CONCACAF member, with Mexico falling 17 places to No. 40 and Costa Rica dropping 27 places to No. 41. Panama fell eight spots to No. 62 and Trinidad and Tobago rose three places to No. 64, to round out the top five.

Argentina, despite falling in the Copa America final, did enough to knock off Germany from the top spot in the World Rankings, moving up two places to No. 1. Germany, Belgium, Colombia, and the Netherlands round out the top five, followed by Brazil, Portugal, Romania, England, and Wales.


What do you think of this news? Disappointed in the USA’s drop in the rankings? Not worried at all?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. The swiss still had no business being seeded in the last WC. Next WC how funny would it be to see Wales be the top seed in a group. Of course they’d have to qualify for it which would be a rare occurrence.

  2. All we can hope is that a Bladderless FIFA will start to change. Just about every part of FIFA could use a modernization.

  3. The FIFA rankings are an offshoot of the old Football Unified Brackets And Rankings. I forget what the acronym is for that system.

  4. So the US gets an advantage to have played an official Regional game included in the Rankings, but Costa Rica and Mexico are sht out of luck to have played their first game after the rankings come out.

  5. Replacing these bogus rankings with a more sensible system for purposes of WC seeding should be part of the massive FIFA reform everyone is demanding.

  6. The FIFA rankings have more to do with what type of win you have. The US victory over Germany and the Netherlands netted the US about 1000 points, but the win over Honduras netted them 900 points !!!, The reason is that the Dutch and German wins were friendlies and the Honduras match is a Regional Championship. What also happened were that the points the US (and all of the other teams) acquired at the World Cup, expired. Also, one flaw in the rankings is that teams who play LESS games stand to gain more positions. ROMANIA moved into the top ten as they played no friendlies.

    Also remember that the Euro Teams are in the middle of Euro qualifying and the SA teams just finished with the Copa America, so they acquired a lot of points before the US and Concacaf can earn theirs.

    I expect if the US wins the Gold Cup and defeat either Mexico or Costa Rica or both, the US will win enough points to move into the top 20

    • So if the USA rattles off 10 straight wins, including Germany, the Netherlands, and Mexico twice, then they’ll probably be considered as one of the top 20 teams in the world? That’s not exactly satisfying.

      • The US will reciece more points in defeating Mexico and Costa Rica than they did for defeating Germany and the Netherlands, as FIFA uses this formula; where
        P = M x I x T x C

        P=points won for the FIFA ranking

        M=Match won lost, tied:3pts=win;1pts=draw;0pts=draw Shootout 2pts=win;0pts=lose

        multiplied by

        I (importance of match) THIS is the a big multiplier, A World Cup win will give you a multiplier of 4, where a friendly, it’s 1; for a WC qualifier, you get a 2.5, and a Confederation Final (Gold Cup) a 3

        multiplied by
        Strength of Team (opponent)
        200 minus the ranking of the team, Beating Germany gives you 199, beating Micronesia gives you 1.

        multiplied by
        Strength of Confederation. This the multiplier that diminishes all teams outside of UEFA and CONMEBOL. 0.85 for Asia, Africa and Concacaf; 0.99 for UEFA and 1.00 for CONMEBOL. Africa and Concacaf are way ahead of ASIA in strength, yet we have the same multiplier. And as even lowly UEFA minnow team s like Wales or Romania by playing other minnows will get almost the same amount of points as a Concacaf team winning a mid-level Concacaf team
        So you can see how its made more difficult for Concacaf teams to move, the rankings also punish non uefa o non conmebol teams for friendlies and rewards UEFA minnows who play no friendlies.

        The FIFA ranking also discount progressively, those points earned in World Cups while discounting less, matches played in non world cup confederation playoffs or qualifiers.

        The US did not do itself any favors at the World Cup, it won one game against a team ranked lower than itself and lost to teams higher ranked. It could have even got more points for a Tie against Portugal, than a win against Ghana. And this month, those few points were mostly discounted. So getting out of a group of death was mostly ignored by how FIFA ranks, but Costa Rica who won three games all against higher ranked opponents finds itself in a good FIFA ranking at 14th

      • Just one small correction on the strength of opponent multiplier. From what I understand, it is 200 minus the ranking divided by 100. Teams ranked 150 and below are all assigned the value of 150, which gives a minimum multiplier of 0.5.

  7. …and this is exactly why the rankings are as bogus as college football polls.

    If people want to have ’em, have ’em…but stop pretending they actually mean anything. Especially given that seeding for World Cup groups is a function of these ratings they become particularly mis-used.

    Truthfully, the winners of all five major confederations deserve a seed. The host already gets one. After that you can quibble about who gets the other two seeding spots by whatever metric you might find reasonable. But it’s absolutely ridiculous that Germany and the champions of two major confederations – USA (CONCACAF) and Ghana (CAN) – all wound up in the same group…along with the #7-rated team in the world per FIFA’s own rating system.

    Winning gets you nothing…and stuff should be settled, and won, on the field. It’s frankly amazing that as many votes as Africa, Asia, and CONCACAF have, that the present seeding system has been allowed to stand.

    FIFA needs to do better. Then again, that can be said about FIFA in just a whole lot of areas.

  8. Everyone should pay more attention to the Elo rankings, which in my mind are more realistic. In that format of ranking the USA is #14, which feels more accurate.

    • I agree they seem a lot more realistic.

      The problem is, FIFA uses their own formula for seeding in World Cup groups. Which usually winds the USA up in Groups of Death even after we’ve won CONCACAF. Last time, as I mentioned below, the lack of seeding for confederation champs managed to get the Euro champs (Germany), the CONCACAF champs (USA), and the African champs (Ghana) all rolled into the same group. Along with Portugal. Woof.

      That makes sense how?

  9. There’s no way that Romania is the 8th best nation in the world and Wales is the 10th best. This system actually punishes teams that play friendlies vs those that don’t play at all. From an article explaining Wales’ rise from #117 to #10 in just four years:

    “Believe it or not, another significant factor in Wales’ rise is the fact they didn’t play games. With the international calendar restructured to end August friendlies and Wales opting against warm-up games in the build-up to qualifiers against Israel and Belgium, it actually boosted their chances of climbing the standings.

    Why? It is an answer that is two-fold, the first being that friendlies are worth far fewer rankings points (given a multiplier of one compared to a Euro 2016 qualifier which has a multiplier of 2.5) and the second being how the rankings use an average points system.

    In other words, the rankings points gained over the 12-month period are divided by the number of games played. That means even winning a friendly – certainly against a side ranked lower in the world – can have a negative impact, obviously as can losing friendlies. For example, Italy have suffered from losing friendlies including the defeat to Portugal last month while Spain have only won one of the four friendlies played in the last year.

    It is not thought Wales have deliberately avoided friendlies to boost their standings but it was another reason not to try and arrange a game in the build-up to Israel with the result being not only a place in the top-10, but a place among the top seeds in the world.”

    • That’s actually kind of interesting, which would explain why the top three CONCACAF teams saw such a big drop. The Mexico, Costa Rica, and the US all play a large amount of friendlies throughout the year, probably more than most teams in any federation. Which brings up a good question, why play so many friendlies if the top teams in the world do not? Is there any data that shows that playing more friendlies actually makes teams better?

      • Oh I agree the main motivator is money, which is why I’ve never really bought into the idea that playing a lot of friendlies is good way to make a better team. Just to compare between 2010-2014 Germany played 31 friendlies, the US during that same period played 47. What did playing those 47 friendlies actually do for the US besides making the USSF money? 2 World Cup wins during the group stage in total and two trips to the round of 16. That doesn’t sound like a great ROI from a sporting perspective, from a financial perspective it’s great though.

      • Presumably most of that money raised from the friendlies is reinvested in the program and the domestic leagues. Training facilities, better coaches, scouting, etc. Keep that $$$ rolling USSF.

      • As long as soccer coaches believe that the best way to improve their team is to play games against the best competition available rather than to simply hold training camps with no actual games, or play only games they are expected to win, international friendlies will continue to abound.

        And since US, Mexico and Costa Rica are routinely much better than the rest of CONCACAF, they will strive to find games against top competition, else they would only have 2-4 games per year in which they were not expected to win handily in the Gold Cup and in WC qualifiers..

      • I don’t know, I think the US, Mexico, and Costa Rica would still be as good without having to play the amount of friendlies they currently play. Playing 5-7 games a year should be plenty of games to scout players and tinker with formations. The top teams play around that many. The US and Mexico will sometimes play up to 10-12 friendlies a year.

  10. FIFA retaliation: Ban Blazer for life “suddenly” after 4 years of knowing what he did, drop US ranking 7 spots (one of our biggest drops ever, FYI) after beating the two top 6 teams away…and oh yeah, arresting 14 member of FIFA. Burn FIFA to the ground and start again.

    • The ranking is a simple, transparent mathematical calculation that’s been around for a while. It’s not like someone at FIFA decided to drop us as revenge or anything.

      Having said that, the calculation could be vastly improved.

    • You have a problem with (corrupt) FIFA banning Blazer for life? Why, because he’s an american? He’s a crook, and not only should he be banned for life, he should be jailed for life, and ALL assets seized.

  11. The current version of the ratings also gives a great example of the weight that the rankings gives to European competitions (and games involving UEFA nations) over games involving other federations.

    My understanding is a game between two european countries, will result in more points being allocated than a competition between, lets say, two asian countries. This would be true even if both games involved federation qualification matches. A possible tweak would be to make all internal qualification games within a federation of equal weight, regardless of the federation involved. That would probably avoid these wild swings like Wales jumping up the ranks even though Wales failed to qualify for WC2014.

    • With the proposed UEFA Nations League, it will get worse. Almost all Euro matches will be competitions, meaning that (1) they are worth more points than friendlies and (2) non-UEFA teams won’t have high ranked teams to play their friendlies against.

      • Wish we could extend this Nations League into the other confederations, I would love to see USA, Ghana, Nigeria, Japan and others rip up the teams supposedly ranked just above them.

      • I always thought it would be a good idea to have a 8 team tournament between CONCACAF, CAF and AFC.

        For example:
        USA, Mexico, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and a home country.

        Two groups of 4, top 2 from each group into a semi final and winners to a final.

    • The weighting doesn’t really make sense. I can’t remember the exact numbers (I looked at this a while ago), but the confederations are weighted in such a way that if the US beats a #10 Costa Rica and then beats a #20 Iceland (just examples), they would receive more points for beating Iceland. It makes no sense. If, after weighting for confederation, the European team is a stronger opponent (according to the coefficient), why are they ranked 10 spots below the concacaf team? If Costa Rica is ranked #10, it shouldn’t matter what confederation they’re from. It’s all set up to preserve the status quo.

  12. One presumes that the US will rise back up the rankings again if they perform well in rest of the Gold Cup. The only time these rankings really have meaning is much closer to the World Cup. This version is essentially a pre-season college football ranking.

      • To call it an algorithm might be giving it too much credit. It makes it sound more complex than it really is. It’s a straightforward formula that could have been an extra credit project for a 5th grade class.

      • I looked at their formula a number of years ago, and it is kind of screwy. This drop shows the problems with 1. using average points to rank teams and 2. the depreciation setup used for those points.

        The problem with using average points is that even winning friendlies may lower the team’s average points because friendlies aren’t worth many points.

        The problem with their deprecation setup is that matches where a team got a lot of points (like June 2014 in this ranking release) get revalued to half their weight after 12 months meaning that a team’s point total can suddenly shift between months.

        A much better way to do a team ranking index would be to use an ordered probit regression with results deprecating smoothly over time (and friendlies having less influence on the regression than other matches). I’ve thought about coding this up. If the game result database was a usable shape it wouldn’t be too hard.

      • Ahh…we used to do it (ordered probit mathematical regression) when was scientific research (before grad school).

    • Plus, we are ;now behind mighty Iceland (maybe AJ chose the wrong team to join). This is probably the clearest indication in a long time of just what a joke these rankings are.

  13. …Upon handing out the new rankings, FIFA officials were asked if the US’s drop had ANYTHING to do with filing charges, extraditing, and holding criminal proceedings against FIFA officials that ultimately led to the forced partial resignation of Sepp Blatter. When asked about this mysterious coincidence, President (but not really President, but really….still President) Blatter gave the media a raspberry by sticking his tongue out and making a noise with it….

    …or what the news report should have said….

  14. Here, the downside to strictly putting a mathematical formula on sport, is shown. Our position is nothing to fret over when you step back and ask yourself: who is the best team in the world? Oh yes, Germany, who won the WC last summer. Are we really dropping them for losing a friendly? They’re still kings, if you ask me.

    Is Argentina really better? I love Messi. Big fan. But they lost in the Copa. Thinking logically, how are they ranked higher than Germany? They’re not, unless you only look at it using a calculations.

    Now, I don’t know much about them, but seeing Wales at 10 also makes me chuckle. Perhaps they’re worthy, but this ranking as a whole doesn’t seem to be very credible currently. Not enough to lose sleep over a 34th place ranking. Mathematical formulas don’t do much on the pitch. My eyes tell me so.


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