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Qualifying scenarios remaining for the USMNT after Friday’s defeat


HARRISON, NJ - SEPTEMBER 01: Marcos Urea #21 of Costa Rica moves between Jorge Villafaa #2 and Tim Ream #14 of the United States during their match at Red Bull Arena on September 1, 2017 in Harrison, New Jersey. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Jeff Zelevansky

There was a clear negative to take away from Friday’s 2-0 home defeat against Costa Rica, and that was that with the loss the U.S. Men’s National Team is now in a precarious position in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

[ MORE: Three things from the USMNT’s defeat against Costa Rica ]

The loss did two things for Bruce Arena and his side. First, the U.S. now falls six points behind the Ticos in the Hexagonal, while Costa Rica has moved a giant step closer to Russia next summer.

On top of that, Mexico took care of business at home against Panama, with a 1-0 result, giving El Tri the first of three automatic spots in next year’s World Cup.

Here’s a look at the current Hexagonal table as things stand.

  1. Mexico -- 17 points -- +8 GD (Qualified for Russia)
  2. Costa Rica -- 14 points -- +7 GD
  3. USMNT -- 8 points -- +1 GD
  4. Honduras -- 8 points -- -7 GD
  5. Panama -- 7 points -- -1 GD
  6. Trinidad & Tobago -- 3 points -- -8 GD

Barring something catastrophic, Costa Rica has done enough to book its place in Russia and mathematically the Ticos could lock up a place on Tuesday with a win over Mexico at the Estadio Nacional.

That leaves one spot remaining for direct qualification into the World Cup from North/Central America and a fourth spot that would result in a playoff against a team from Asia.

Despite the chaos the U.S. has inflicted upon itself after Friday’s loss, the Stars and Stripes still hold fate in their own hands. The team’s 6-0 victory over Honduras back in March helped the USMNT’s goal differential significantly, which is what separates the two nations at the moment as a tiebreaker.

With the U.S. and Honduras meeting on Tuesday, a win or draw is essentially a must for Arena and Co. Los Catrachos face a difficult schedule to close out the Hex, with matches against Costa Rica and Mexico looming in October, but the team could very well benefit from both teams having qualified for the World Cup when they take the field next month.

Panama has been a tricky team to judge this qualifying campaign because while they have just one victory to show for themselves, the Canaleros have taken points in five of their seven matches and only conceded five goals in that span.

It’s still hard to imagine Panama finishing in the top three because that would likely mean they’d have to obtain wins against the U.S. and Costa Rica, along with their upcoming match against Trinidad. It’s not impossible though.

Finally, Trinidad is in a similar boat as Panama, but they can’t even lean on a strong backline to cancel out the team’s lack of goalscoring. Trinidad has taken points in one of its seven qualifying matches, so for all intents and purposes we’ll say the Soca Warriors have very slim chances of reaching the World Cup.

Here’s my take on how the final Hex table will shape up to look like.

(Bold automatically qualifies for World Cup, underlined faces AFC nation in playoff)

  1. Mexico -- 22 points
  2. Costa Rica -- 18 points
  3. USMNT -- 15 points
  4. Panama -- 10 points (Edges Honduras on GD)
  5. Honduras -- 10 points
  6. Trinidad -- 3 points

It’s just hard to imagine the U.S. not qualifying for the World Cup... If the Yanks fall on Tuesday at Honduras then perhaps the idea of it actually happening will move closer to reality, but until that occurs there’s still confidence on the end of this sports writer.

The U.S. will find a way to get a draw in San Pedro Sula, before pulling out victories against Panama and T&T next month. Regardless of your feelings about the USMNT, there is still plenty of talent in the squad and there’s no reason to believe that the Stars and Stripes won’t qualify for Russia, especially given CONCACAF’s qualifying set up.