On Friday morning, in Bahia, Brazil, FIFA will conduct the draw for the 2014 World Cup (8:30 am PT on ESPN2 and beginning at 11 am ET on Univision, Univision Deportes Network, WatchESPN and FIFA.com).
The draw will distribute the 32 qualifying nations into the eight groups that will compete in the first round of the tournament.
But those are just the practicalities. The truth is, the draw is so much more: a tension-filled, dream-making-and-crushing theater setpiece, with soap-opera drama visible on the faces of the coaches and federation bigwigs in attendance and in the reactions of fans around the world.
HOW THE NATIONS ARE GROUPED
- Pot 1: Brazil, Spain, Germany, Argentina, Colombia, Belgium, Uruguay and Switzerland
- Pot 2: Chile, Ecuador, Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Nigeria
- Pot 3: Australia, Iran, Japan, Republic of Korea, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico and USA
- Pot 4: Portugal, Italy, Netherlands, Greece, England, Croatia, France, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Russia
HOW THE DRAW WORKS
NOTE: Teams from the same region cannot be drawn into the same group except for a maximum of two European teams in any single group.
STEP 1: One European team from Pot 4 will be placed into Pot 2 to ensure 8 teams in each pot
STEP 2: The eight seeds from Pot 1 are assigned groups from Group A through Group H
STEP 3: A ball will be drawn from a special Pot X, featuring the four seeded South American teams. The lone European team in Pot 2 (STEP 1) will be assigned to that South American team's group in order to avoid the possiblity of having three European teams in any one group.
STEP 4: The rest of the Pot 2 teams are randomly drawn into the other seven groups (Note: Chile and Ecuador cannot be drawn into teams with other South American teams).
STEP 5: Pot 3 teams are randomly drawn into the eight groups.
STEP 6: Pot 4 teams are randomly drawn into the eight groups.
Eight former players representing the eight former World Cup champions -- Cafu (Brazil), Fabio Cannavaro (Italy), Mario Kempes (Argentina), ex-MLS player Lothar Matthaus (Germany), Alcides Ghiggia (Uruguay), Fernando Hierro (Spain), Zinedine Zidane (France) and Sir Geoff Hurst (England) will help FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke conduct the draw.
WORLD CUP DRAW SIMULATORS
Try your hand at picking the groups using one of these three World Cup draw simulators:
MLSSOCCER.COM'S PRE-DRAW COVERAGE
- World Cup 2014 seeds are officially revealed
- CONCACAF nations, including USMNT, placed in Pot 3 for 2014 World Cup Draw
- USMNT legends look back on previous World Cup draws
- Former France boss predicts quarterfinal run for USMNT
- adidas unveils new World Cup ball -- the Brazuca
- USMNT stars to participate in World Cup Draw event in Kansas City
- Simulators predict rough draw for USMNT
KICKTV LIVE POST-DRAW SHOW, WITH SB NATION
USMNT MANAGER JURGEN KLINSMANN ON WORLD CUP DRAW
"You can start making plans," Klinsmann told USsoccer.com. "You can start analyzing the teams and get familiar with the locations where you play them. You get to work.
"We want to do everything possible and be perfectly prepared for those three opponents and also already look ahead to what we can expect in the Round of 16 if we pass the group stage."
A LOOK BACK AT RECENT USMNT WORLD CUP DRAWS
1998 -- Group F: Germany, Yugoslavia, Iran, USA (Read the story here)
2002 -- Group D: South Korea, USA, Portugal, Poland (Read the story here)
2006 -- Group E: Italy, Ghana, Czech Republic, USA (Read the story here)
2010 -- Group C: USA, England, Slovenia, Algeria