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USA's best-case and worst-case scenarios ...
by Paul Kennedy, September 9th, 2009 6:45AM



[WORLD CUP QUALIFYING] The Hexagonal race is so tight that for the first time since Concacaf formed the six-team final group to determine its three World Cup finalists in 1997 no team will clinch a berth in the finals before Day 9. For a look at the scenarios involving the USA ...

The USA cannot clinch a berth in the World Cup 2010 finals on Wednesday but it can clinch no worse than fourth place and an eventual berth in the Concacaf-South America playoff in November ...

-- If the USA beats Trinidad & Tobago;
-- If the USA ties Trinidad & Tobago and El Salvador doesn't beat Costa Rica.

The USA will control its own fate and be in a position to clinch one of the three automatic berths if it beats Trinidad & Tobago. The USA will only need to beat Costa Rica on Oct. 14 -- the results of all other games will not matter.

(A U.S. win at Trinidad & Tobago and Costa Rica loss at El Salvador will mean a USA-Costa Rica tie will suffice; a U.S. win at Trinidad & Tobago and El Salvador-Costa Rica tie will mean that a a USA-Costa Rica tie will probably suffice because the USA has a better goal differential than the Ticos: plus-4 to minus-3 at the moment.)

If the USA doesn't win but Costa Rica wins on Wednesday, the USA will need more than a victory over the Ticos on Oct. 14 to clinch one of the top three spots.

(The USA might need, as an example, a win or tie at Honduras on Oct. 14 or for Costa Rica not to beat Trinidad & Tobago the same day. Or for Mexico or Honduras to drop points in their other remaining games.)

There are scenarios by which the USA will clinch one of the top three spots on Oct. 10 (although there are no scenarios by which it will be out of contention for one of those spots after Day 9):

-- If the USA gains three or more points than Costa Rica or Mexico does from their next two games; or
-- If the USA gains four or more points than Honduras does from their next two games.

Honduras 7 4 1 2 14 7 13
USA 7 4 1 2 13 9 13
Mexico 7 4 0 3 11 9 12
Costa Rica 7 4 0 3 9 12 12
El Salvador 7 1 2 4 7 10 5
Trin. & Tobago 7 1 2 4 8 15 5
(The top three teams advance to World Cup 2010; the fourth-place team faces the fifth-place team from South America in a playoff.)
September 9
Trinidad & Tobago v USA (ESPN Classic, Telefutura, live, 6:30 pm ET)
Mexico v Honduras (Telemundo, live, 9 pm ET)
El Salvador v Costa Rica
October 10
Mexico-El Salvador
Costa Rica-Trin. & Tobago
October 14
El Salvador-Honduras
Trin. & Tobago-Mexico
USA-Costa Rica


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