The U.S. men’s national team is far from guaranteed a spot in the 2018 World Cup. But in less than a week, that could change.
The U.S. sits just one point above fourth-place Panama in the Hex, but it could clinch qualification as early as next Tuesday. And while the scenario in which it does is improbable, it’s actually not all that complicated. There are five results that need to go in the Americans’ favor.
First of all, the U.S. must win its two games – vs. Costa Rica on Friday, and at Honduras on Tuesday.
Then it must get some help. The Friday match between Honduras and Trinidad and Tobago must end in a draw. Mexico must beat Panama on Friday night as well. And finally, Trinidad and Tobago must beat Panama next Tuesday.
Here’s why the scenario is so specific: To officially qualify, the U.S. would have to find itself at least seven points ahead of all three of Panama, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago after Tuesday. A U.S. win would put the Yanks on 14 points. The three other teams would have to stay below eight.
Panama currently sits on seven, and would therefore have to lose both its games. Honduras is on five, and would still be below seven as long as it doesn’t win one of its two upcoming matches.
But the Hondurans have to lose their second match because it’s against the U.S. And they have to draw the first one, because if they lose, that means Trinidad and Tobago wins. And if Panama loses both its games, one of those losses would also be to Trinidad and Tobago. That would lift T&T, which currently has three points, up to nine – within five of the U.S., and therefore within striking distance.
So to recap, the U.S. needs five specific results in five matches:
- USA win vs. Costa Rica on Friday
- Honduras draw vs. Trinidad and Tobago on Friday
- Mexico win vs. Panama on Friday
- USA win vs. Honduras on Tuesday
- Trinidad and Tobago win vs. Panama on Tuesday
Possible? Yes. But likely? No.
However, if the U.S. were to get two wins, or even a win and a draw, it would be in great shape, regardless of results elsewhere. It would then be able to lock up a berth in Russia with a win on Oct. 6 against Panama in Orlando.
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Henry Bushnell covers soccer – the U.S. national teams, the Premier League, and much, much more – for FC Yahoo and Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.