America, land of the free, and home of the perennial World Cup qualifiers. At least that’s what the past twenty-seven years have taught us about the U-S of A’s men’s national soccer team. Unfortunately for The Outlaws, their impressive streak at soccer’s biggest stage is in serious jeopardy. The United States has two games remaining in the final stage of CONCACAF qualification known as the hexagonal stage. Here’s how things are currently shaping in the “hex”:
The United States find themselves in the unenviable fourth seed, which would see them enter an open playoff tie with the champion of OFC (Oceania), the fifth placing team from CONMEBOL (South America), and the fifth placing team from AFC (Asia). For the 2018 World Cup, CONCACAF’s playoff tie is set with AFC. This would mean the fourth seeded team in CONCACAF would face off against the fifth seed out of Asia, the winner of Australia and Syria’s head-to-head tie in October.
Just for fun, let’s assume that the United States’ position in qualification holds, and that Australia overcomes an overachieving Syrian squad. This scenario would set up a gargantuan playoff tie with a crowning ticket to Russia on the line. Like the Outlaws, the Socceroos have become a regular feature at World Cups since breaking a long drought in 2006.
In order for this clash of titans to be avoided, the Americans must climb into the top three of the hexagonal stage. The only remaining nation they can catch at this point is Panama, a country that has never qualified for the World Cup, but has made it to the “hex” in three of the last four qualification cycles. The United States’ next matchup sees them playing host to the Panamanians in what very well could be a make-or-break game for both parties. After that matchup, the U.S. travel to Trinidad to take on the basement dwellers of the stage, while Panama returns home to host a dangerous Ticos side (Costa Rica). Lost in this battle is Honduras, who sit tied with the Americans and threaten to leapfrog the U.S. for their international play-off spot. With Honduras’ two remaining matchups against Costa Rica and Mexico, many experts have already counted Los Catrachos out of the race. Despite this, there is still a scenario that exists where Honduras receives automatic qualification for Russia, while Panama is forced to play the international tie-breaker, and the Americans outright miss their opportunity at qualification.
Tune in on October 6th to catch the next wave of CONCACAF qualification games which could make or break America’s chances of extending their World Cup streak