(AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)
(AP) -- The U.S. drew a daunting task for next year's World Cup: difficult opponents, tropical venues and a wearying 9,000-mile zigzag journey across Brazil.
The Americans wound up with the potentially punishing group they feared and will play Ghana, Portugal and Germany next June as they try to achieve a U.S. first: reaching the knockout phase twice in a row.
While Ghana eliminated the Americans in 2006 and 2010, the Black Stars won't do it again. The U.S. opens its seventh straight World Cup appearance against Ghana on June 16 at Natal.