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Weekend Premier League predictions

Premier League
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By ESPN Staff

U.S. receives first-round bye in World Cup qualifying

ZURICH, Switzerland -- The United States was among 13 nations that will receive a first-round bye in soccer's North and Central American and Caribbean qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.

FIFA, soccer's governing body, said Friday it based the decision on its rankings from May, when the United States was second in the region, a position it also holds in the latest rankings. Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Cuba, Haiti, Guatemala, Canada, Guyana and St. Vincent and the Grenadines also received first-round byes.

Twenty-two nations will be slotted into home-and-home pairings during the World Cup qualifying draw on Nov. 25 in Durban, South Africa. The 11 winners and St. Vincent will drawn against the top 12 seeds in the second round, which likely will be in June. The 12 second-round winners advance to the semifinals, which will retain the same format from 2006 qualifying, with three groups of four.

The top two teams in each semifinal group advance to the six-nation regional finals. The top three teams in the finals qualify for the 32-nation field, and the No. 4 team meets the fifth-place team from South American in a home-and-home playoff for another berth.