According to the trusty ESPN Soccer Power Index, the United States men’s national team has an 82% chance of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup based on a formula of projections and past results. The win and draw in March significantly helped their qualification cause after a horrid beginning to the CONCACAF Hexagonal in late 2016. But, you know what’s already happened, there’s no point in dwelling on it anymore than we have. It’s all about looking to the future and the remaining six matches. In my spare time from creating awesome content, I practice the art of projections and advanced statistics and numbers and stuff. Here is some super analytical research on the USMNT’s remaining Hex schedule:
June 8 vs. Trinidad & Tobago
According to Steven Goff of the Washington Post, this match is expected to take place in “Suburban Denver”, which is code for saying Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. That’s right, if he’s to be believed (and there’s absolutely no reason he shouldn’t be) the U.S. will be returning to the scene of the famous “Snow Classico” that took place against Costa Rica in the last World Cup cycle.
As harsh as it is to say, T&T are a complete mess of a program at current time. Their federation failed to secure a local TV deal for their most recent World Cup qualifiers and have undergone two coaching changes in the span of four months. Off the field they are all over the place and on it they aren’t much better. For my money they are the worst team of the six-team group. Coming to the U.S. and playing a highly-motivated USMNT side is not something they’ll be looking forward to. This should be as much of a lock to secure three points as we see the rest of the way.
Random Winnability Rating: 98%
June 11 at Mexico
While it hasn’t been officially confirmed, it would be a shock of massive proportions if the traditional Hex match between El Tri and the USMNT didn’t take place at Estadio Azteca. There have been whispers that the altitude advantage held by Mexico in their historic home venue is now hurting their own team. But, this match just wouldn’t be the same anywhere else. As always, this will be the most difficult match to scrape anything out of for Bruce Arena’s side. Mexico have an uber-busy schedule this summer with two WCQ’s, the Gold Cup, and the Confederations Cup to contend with. While that shouldn’t make much of a difference for this match, it’s something Juan Carlos Osorio has to factor in with his squad selection.
Random Winnability Rating: LOL
Random Drawability Rating: 17%
September 1 vs. Costa Rica
Facing Mexico and Costa Rica back-to-back was always going to be a difficult ask. The U.S. found that out the hard way in November. Thankfully, this time they’ll have 2 1⁄2 months between matches to prepare. Most likely coming off a loss at the Azteca, the U.S. will be in desperate need of three points at home. Los Ticos are a very good side, but we saw last year what happens when they come up against the Americans on their home soil in a competitive match at the Copa America Centenario. While it’s impossible to know what kind of form both sides will be in five months from now, expect more of the same when they meet again later this year. As for a possible venue for this important match, Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City seems like a reasonable guess.
Random Winnability Rating: A-
September 5 at Honduras
This match has the potential to be the trickiest one remaining on the Hex schedule. Yes, the U.S. just ripped them apart, 6-0. They responded by holding Costa Rica to a 1-1 draw at home. There’s reason to believe they could do the same to the USMNT when the time comes. Away qualifiers, CONCACAF, rough playing conditions, rabble, rabble. You know the story by now. It’s not easy to pick up points away from home. If the U.S. put on a great performance, this is a winnable match, but odds are they’ll be hoping for a point heading into the final two qualifiers.
Random Winnability Rating: 32.5%
Random Drawability Rating: 37.49999%
October 6 vs. Panama
Panama have a few dangerous players and a stout defense. They showed this at home. However, when they come to the States it’ll be a different story. The U.S. should stroll in this one pretty easy. Brainstorming, who wouldn’t want to see a repeat of the Seattle spectacle against Panama like we saw last cycle?
Random Winnability Rating: Rave Green
October 10 at Trinidad and Tobago
If you have to play an away World Cup qualifier to conclude this Hex, you couldn’t pick a better country to do it against that T&T. I’ve already covered their struggles, so I won’t go on about that. Hopefully the U.S. will have qualification wrapped up by then. If they don’t, you have to like their chances of getting three points against a country who will likely be eliminated by then. It’s a good scenario to be in, if you need it.
Random Winnability Rating: 69%
Over the five cycles that CONCACAF has used the Hexagonal World Cup qualifying format, the average third-place team has finished on 15.6 points. No third-place team has ever won more than 17 points. The USMNT currently has four points, so to reach that target of 17, they’d need to take 13 points from their remaining six matches. — via SB Nation
Assuming the U.S. win the rest of their home matches, they’ll have 13 points. That leaves 2-3 points left to acquire in the three remaining away matches. That’s assuming that history repeats itself. With the way the Hex is playing out so far, every team is beating the other resulting in lower point totals. For me, the away match at Honduras is the decider. If you can get something from that match you should be looking good heading into the final two. If you get three points, you’re all but in. And if all else fails and the U.S. need a result in their final match, having T&T as the final opponent is a bit fortunate.
There’s still a ton to be decided this year. Expect the unexpected in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. As much as we try to project these things, it’s going to come down to what happens on the field. It should be a fun year that hopefully culminates with a trip to Russia booked for 2018.