The United States, Mexico and Costa Rica are making a big splash at the World Cup football tournament being contested in South Korea and Japan. The three teams from the modest CONCACAF confederation have beaten some of the pre-tournament favorites and are undefeated so far.
One of the biggest surprises so far at this year's World Cup has been the performance of the teams from the often-lightly regarded CONCACAF region. The confederation is comprised of teams from North and Central America and the Caribbean.
Although traditional powerhouse nations - like defending champion France, Argentina and Italy - have all suffered losses, the three CONCACAF representatives have compiled an enviable record of four wins and two draws, after playing two matches each. Every other confederation has suffered at least one loss.
When one tries to predict who will lift football's most prestigious trophy, thoughts almost automatically turn to the superior teams from Europe and UEFA, or even the talented South American confederation, with standouts like Brazil and Argentina. But Rafael Crisostomo, the sports editor for the largest Hispanic newspaper in the Washington D.C. area, El Pregonero, says CONCACAF and Team USA, in particular, are improving.
"They are growing up especially the United States. I am telling you, it's a team that is hard to beat. And right now they are showing really great, great, great play. They have a very young league, the MLS," he says. "They are just six years old. And, they have very young players. I believe that the central area has the best in young players."
So, does this mean that the tide is turning in favor of CONCACAF? Will Mexico, Costa Rica or the United States hoist the World Cup? Well, let's not get carried away.
" Well, until the second step, let's see," he laughs.
It's probably a little too soon for even the group's most-ardent supporters to suggest that it is on a par with the best confederations. But, it is an indication of just how wide-open the 2002 tournament has been. A surprise team could emerge with the sport's most vaunted prize.