There is no such thing as an easy draw in the World Cup, when 32 nations wage battle to be named the top footballing side in the world.
But for the United States, the odds of being drawn into a very, very difficult group were reaffirmed with Tuesday's announcement of the pots for the draw.
First, the pots, via Paul Carr of ESPN:
The official pots for Friday's World Cup draw (11:30 AM ET on ESPN2): pic.twitter.com/z7VAW6pL2e— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) December 3, 2013
While it's not surprising that the North American and Asian qualifiers were lumped together, it essentially means that the United States will be drawn alongside of the other three pots, all stacked with talent, making their likelihood of ending up in a Group of Death very high.
And yes, there are just seven teams in Pot 2 and nine teams in Pot 4. One of those Pot 4 teams will be drawn into Pot 2 and paired with a South American team, rather than what was expected coming into the draw—that the lowest-ranked UEFA team would be placed in Pot 2.
In other words, the absolute worst-case scenario for the United States would be landing in a group with either Brazil or Argentina from Pot 1 and the Netherlands and Italy—again, with one Pot 4 team shifting to Pot 2—which is possible and utterly horrifying.
It's just as likely the United States could draw either Spain or Germany, Chile or the Ivory Coast and the Netherlands or Italy—again, a pretty frightful possibility.
For the United States, arguably the easiest draw would see them get Switzerland out of Pot 1, Algeria out of Pot 2 and Greece out of Pot 4.
In general, the United States will hope to avoid Brazil, Spain, Argentina and Germany in Pot 1. While Colombia, Uruguay and Belgium are all tough draws, avoiding the top three teams in the world and the tournament hosts is crucial.
If given the option, drawing Switzerland or Belgium from Pot 1 would be ideal, though the Belgians are loaded with young talent.
In Pot 2, the United States will be hoping to avoid Chile, Nigeria, the Ivory Coast or a top European side. Even Ecuador or Ghana would be a solid draw compared to the possibility of landing the Netherlands or Italy.
Which European team are you hoping the United States draw in Pot 4?
In Pot 3, the USMNT will definitely want to avoid the Dutch and Italians, but staying away from England, France and Portugal would also be ideal. While even the lower-ranked UEFA teams like Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Russia or Greece are still very dangerous, those are the type of teams that the United States are certainly capable of beating.
Any way you slice it, the path to the knockout phase for the United States looks likely to be rife with dangerous opponents. That's the World Cup, folks—it ain't for the faint of heart.