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US opens World Cup qualifying in group with Trinidad, possibly Guatemala

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ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — The United States' road to the 2018 World Cup opens in November with a four-nation group that includes Trinidad and Tobago.

Given a bye in the first three rounds along with the other powers of the North and Central American and Caribbean region, the 34th-ranked United States was drawn into Group C for the fourth round. In addition to the No. 64 Soca Warriors, the group will include 105th-ranked Guatemala or No. 107 Antigua and Barbuda, and 135th-ranked Aruba or No. 115 St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Seeking its eighth straight World Cup appearance, the Americans start with a pair of games on Nov. 13 and 17. Play resumes March 25 and 29, and then takes a six-month break before concluding Sept. 2 and 6, 2016. The top two nations advance to the final round Hexagonal, which will produce three qualifiers and determine the fourth-place team that meets Asia's No. 5 team in a playoff for a berth. The Hexagonal starts Nov. 7, 2016, and ends Oct. 10, 2017.

Qualifying could offer some intrigue in goal for the U.S. Tim Howard took a break from the national team for a year after starring in the World Cup but now says he wants to return.

Brad Guzan has played well in his place, and coach Jurgen Klinsmann praised his performance in Saturday's loss in the CONCACAF Gold Cup third-place game.

PHOTO: United States goalkeeper Brad Guzan reacts after giving up a goal to Panama's Harold Cummings during a penalty kick shootout in the CONCACAF Gold Cup third place soccer match, Saturday, July 25, 2015, in Chester, Pa. Panama won. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
United States goalkeeper Brad Guzan reacts after giving up a goal to Panama's Harold Cummings during a penalty kick shootout in the CONCACAF Gold Cup third place soccer match, Saturday, July 25, 2015, in Chester, Pa. Panama won. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

"I'm hopefully coming into the best years of my life in terms of goalkeeping," Guzan said. "I feel ready; I feel confident. I'm excited about the future."

Klinsmann planned to speak to Howard soon, and he could return for exhibitions in September.

Guzan disputed the notion that he and Howard were ever locked into the roles of No. 1 and No. 2 goalie.

"It's always been a battle," he said. "You're a goalkeeper, obviously only one of you can play. Going forward, I'm sure Jurgen will make that decision."

Mexico is in Group A with Honduras, Canada or Belize, and El Salvador or Curacao. Group B includes Costa Rica, Jamaica or Nicaragua, and Haiti or Grenada.


AP Sports Writer Rachel Cohen in Chester, Pennsylvania, contributed to this report.

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