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How the USMNT can qualify for the 2018 World Cup on Tuesday

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One match to rule them all.

Drew Dinwiddie (@drewdinwiddie)

Well, that was fun. Why does it always seem like the United States men’s national team plays well when there’s adversity and/or doubt swirling about them? They can’t make things easy on themselves, can they? With the win over Panama, they have made their task for qualifying for next summer’s World Cup pretty straightforward. They now control their own destiny with just a single match in the CONCACAF Hexagonal remaining. Here’s a brief look the current Hex standings and a look at all the possible outcomes of Tuesday night’s match against Trinidad & Tobago and how they affect qualification for Russia.

The Easy Way

The simplest and most painless scenario that will see champagne bottles pop on Tuesday night is a win. With Costa Rica earning a last gasp draw over Honduras on Saturday and punching their ticket to Russia, they’ve given the USMNT the control over their own fate. Beat T&T by any scoreline and it’s party time.

A Point is Probably Good

Technically, if the U.S. draws against the Soca Warriors, either Panama or Honduras can match them on points with a win on the final matchday. Panama plays Costa Rica, while Honduras takes on Mexico. However, look at that beautiful goal differential total. It’s ironic that it was the two lopsided home wins against those two nations that have them in such a favorable position.

If the U.S. draws, Panama would have to defeat Costa Rica by eight total goals to match the U.S.’s goal differential, while Honduras would have to beat Mexico by 12. As much as Mexico or Costa Rica would like to see us crash and burn out of World Cup qualifying, I can’t see them conceding those massive goal totals any time soon.

Lose and Hope

While it’s not something anyone wants to enter the equation, there’s still a possibility that a loss could see the U.S. still finish third in the region and earn the final automatic qualification spot. If both Panama and Honduras lose or draw their respective matches, the U.S. could lose by 100 goals on Tuesday and still go to Russia.

If either or both teams win and the U.S. lose, that’s when things start to get hairy. If both win and the U.S. lose, they go home and their World Cup dreams for this cycle are officially over. If only one of them wins and the U.S. lose, the Americans would finish fourth and advance to play Australia or Syria a two-legged playoff to decide who qualifies, the same fate that befell Mexico last cycle.

tl;dr

Win or Draw and the U.S. are going to the World Cup. Lose and it comes down to the results of the other two matches with possibilities ranging from still qualifying automatically all the way permanent elimination. So, uh, let’s not lose, okay?