DOHA, Qatar — The United States will play either Ukraine, Wales or Scotland in its World Cup opener, then meet England and Iran in its return to the tournament.
The 15th-ranked Americans were drawn Friday to start against the European playoff winner on Nov. 21, the tournament's opening day in Qatar, then meet No. 5 England on Nov. 25 and close the group stage against No. 21 Iran on Nov. 29.
No. 39 Scotland meets 27th-ranked Ukraine in June in a playoff delayed because of Russia's attack on Ukraine. The winner meets No. 18 Wales for a World Cup berth, a match also scheduled for June.
The U.S. famously upset England 1-0 at the 1950 World Cup at Belo Horizonte, Brazil, then opened the 2010 tournament with a 1-1 draw against the Three Lions in South Africa. Steven Gerrard put England ahead in the fourth minute at Rustenberg, but Clint Dempsey tied the score in the 40th when his 25-yard shot skipped off the grass twice and bounced in off Robert Green’s hand.
Iran upset the U.S. 2-1 at the 1998 World Cup in France, eliminating the Americans after their second game. Hamid Estili scored in the 40th minute and Mehdi Mahdavikia in the 94th at Lyon, and current U.S. men's national team general manager Brian McBride scored in the 87th.
This year's World Cup is the first moved from its traditional June/July period, a shift to get away from the summer heat in the desert. As a result, the tournament will be played in the middle of European club seasons and overlap with the NFL and college football seasons in the U.S.
Since losing to Germany in the 2002 quarterfinals, the U.S. was eliminated in the group stage in 2006 and the round of 16 in 2010 and 2014, then failed to qualify for the 2018 tournament.
Here is where all the teams landed for the Nov. 21-Dec. 18 tournament:
GROUP A — Qatar, Netherlands, Senegal, Ecuador
Host Qatar will make its World Cup debut against Ecuador on Nov. 21.
Netherlands, a three-time World Cup runner-up, will start against Senegal, the new African champion.
GROUP B — England, United States, Iran, Wales or Scotland or Ukraine
England will open against Iran in a first ever World Cup game between the countries. England and the U.S. will play each other in their second game. The drew 1-1 in their 2010 group when both advanced.
England's final game could be a derby against either of its neighbors, Wales or Scotland, or Ukraine — those three teams are in a playoff bracket in June.
The U.S. and Iran previously met at the 1998 World Cup, where the Iranians won 2-1.
Group B teams should also start play on Nov. 21. That gives those teams fewer days to prepare for the World Cup but builds in more rest days if they go deep into the tournament.
GROUP C — Argentina, Mexico, Poland, Saudi Arabia
Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandowski — the holders of the Ballon d'Or and FIFA Best player in the world awards, respectively — are on track to meet when Argentina plays Poland in the last round of group games.
Argentina opens against Saudi Arabia, and Poland starts against Mexico.
GROUP D — France, Denmark, Tunisia, Peru or Australia or United Arab Emirates
Defending champion France and Denmark were in the same group four years ago and both advanced to the knockout stage. In 2018, they also faced Peru and Australia in their group so a three-team reunion is also possible depending on the outcome of an intercontinental playoff bracket in June.
GROUP E — Spain, Germany, Japan, Costa Rica or New Zealand
2010 champion Spain will face 2014 winner Germany in a tough group for Japan.
Costa Rica was a quarterfinalist in 2014, going deeper then than Spain, but must first get past New Zealand in a playoff in June.
GROUP F — Belgium, Croatia, Morocco, Canada
Belgium was a semifinalist four years ago and Croatia was the beaten finalist. Canada is an intriguing and difficult option from the lowest-ranked teams after topping its qualifying group ahead of Mexico and the U.S.
Morocco gets a group with two tough Europeans for back-to-back tournaments. Last time, it was Spain and Portugal.
GROUP G — Brazil, Switzerland, Serbia, Cameroon
Brazil, Switzerland and Serbia are quickly reunited after all were in the same group in 2018. Brazil will open against Serbia, which it beat 2-0 four years ago.
Brazil should be among the last teams to start play on Nov. 24 — more time for the squad to prepare but a more congested 25-day program if it is to win a record sixth title.
GROUP H — Portugal, Uruguay, South Korea, Ghana
Cristiano Ronaldo is on track to open his fifth straight World Cup finals by facing Ghana.
The group reunites Luis Suarez and Uruguay with Ghana for the first time since their infamous quarterfinals game at the 2010 World Cup. Suarez was sent off for punching away an almost certain winning goal for Ghana deep in extra time. The penalty was missed and Uruguay went on to win the shootout.
Earlier in the 2010 knockout rounds, Suarez scored twice when Uruguay also eliminated South Korea 2-1.