The United States men’s national team finds itself in a three-way battle royal for the final 1.5 spots in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. After a struggle to claw an away point from Honduras and a Panama win over Trinidad & Tobago, the U.S. have fallen to fourth in the Hexagonal table.
CONCACAF Hex through 8 games:— Planet Fútbol (@si_soccer) September 6, 2017
1. Mexico* 18 pts
2. Costa Rica 15 (+7 GD)
3. Panama 10 (+2)
4. USA 9 (+1)
5. Honduras 9 (-7)
6. T&T 3 (-11)
This sets up a truly massive meeting between No. 3 Panama and No. 4 USA in Orlando on October 6. Conventional wisdom would lead one to believe that the Americans should take care of business, but this Hex has been anything but conventional. Assuming that scenario does come to fruition, it still wouldn’t them clinch a spot in the World Cup. A final matchday trip to Trinidad & Tobago now becomes inevitably meaningful.
It remains to be seen what result will exactly be needed for Bruce Arena’s side in the Port of Spain, but no matter what, they’ll go into that match under pressure. Meanwhile, Panama host Costa Rica in the final matchday. Goal differential watch is alive and well. The U.S. (+1) currently sit one behind Panama (+2) with Honduras on -7. Couple that with Honduras’ remaining schedule of at Costa Rica and home to Mexico, and it looks like it could come down to the U.S. vs. Panama for the final automatic qualification spot.
The playoff spot is still there as a fallback. The AFC spot will come down to two teams as Australia and Syria will meet in October to decide who will play the fourth place finisher in CONCACAF.