ST PETERSBURG (Reuters) - The United States, who have qualified for the last seven World Cups, will begin their quest for an eighth straight appearance in Russia in 2018 with Trinidad & Tobago likely to provide the toughest opposition in their first qualifying group.
The U.S., who reached the last 16 in Brazil last year, will also meet the winners of two earlier qualifying round games — St Vincent and the Grenadines v Aruba, and Antigua and Barbuda v Guatemala.
Mexico, who meet Jamaica in the Gold Cup final on Monday, will play Honduras in their opening qualifying group as well as the winners of the earlier round ties — Curacao v El Salvador and Canada v Belize.
Jamaica, whose ranking means they have to enter the competition at an earlier stage, face Nicaragua in a two-legged tie.
If they win that tie they will go into a group containing Costa Rica and Panama as seeded teams. Grenada or Haiti will also be in the same group.
The top two teams in those three groups will go into a final group of six teams.
The top three teams will qualify for the World Cup with the fourth-placed team meeting an Asian qualifier bidding to take their place in the finals.
The United States, Mexico, Costa Rica and Honduras all reached the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, with Costa Rica enjoying their best ever tournament by reaching the quarter-finals.
The CONCACAF qualifying competition is the most complicated out of all of FIFA’s six confederations, with 35 countries reduced to three or four for the finals, depending on whether the fourth-placed finisher wins the intercontinental playoff, due to be held over two legs in November 2017.
Reporting by Mike Collett; editing by Ken Ferris