The sooner the United States men’s soccer team moves on from September the better off it will be.
USA earned just one point from two 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying games this month, falling 2-0 to Costa Rica and drawing Honduras 1-1 in its most recent outings. Instead of taking great strides toward the World Cup, which takes place next summer in Russia, the U.S. faltered, leaving its hopes of qualifying for the tournament in the balance with two games remaining.
Here are the CONCACAF hexagonal standings following the September round of qualifiers.
The top three finishers qualify automatically for World Cup 2018, and the fourth-place finisher must face an Asian opponent in a two-game playoff series for the right to compete in the world’s biggest sporting event.
USA’s chances of qualifying
Mexico already has qualified, and Costa Rica is all but certain to book its World Cup ticket in October. Trinidad and Tobago is down and out.
That leaves USA in a three-way fight with Honduras and Panama for the last spots. One will go straight to Russia, another must endure playoff pressure and the last of the three will suffer elimination.
USA has the easiest schedule of the three, with a home game against Panama on Oct. 6 and a trip to Trinidad and Tobago on Oct. 10 looming. Honduras will travel to Costa Rica on Oct. 6 and host Mexico four days later. Panama will travel to USA on Oct. 6 and host Costa Rica on Oct. 10.
Given the teams’ respective schedules, ESPN pegs USA as favorites to clinch CONCACAF’s last automatic qualification spot.
USA will have to battle to the end of CONCACAF’s road in order to earn the right to compete on the world stage.
Thumbnail photo via Noah K. Murray/USA TODAY Sports Images
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