[WORLD CUP 2010 QUALIFYING] The USA clinched a spot with its win at Honduras on Saturday, but Costa Rica needs to end a 24-year drought in World Cup qualifiers on U.S. soil to guarantee its ticket when the teams clash in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday (TV: 8 pm ET, ESPN2 & Galavision). A U.S. win would earn the Americans a first-place finish in the Hexagonal, which Coach Bob Bradley says could be important.
"We have emphasized to the team that our work is not finished," Bradley said. "From the beginning it has been our goal to finish in first place in the group, and with the possibility that winning the group could potentially impact seeding for the World Cup, there is no doubt our mission on Wednesday is to win the game."
The USA leads second-place Mexico, which plays at Trinidad & Tobago, by one point. Costa Rica, which beat the USA, 3-1, when the Ticos hosted in June, is in third place, two points ahead of fourth-place Honduras, whose final game is at already-eliminated El Salvador.
The top three finishers qualify for the World Cup and the fourth-place team earns a two-game playoff with South America's fifth-place team.
Costa Rica is aiming to qualify for the third straight time while Honduras hopes to make its first World Cup appearance since 1982, when it qualified for the first time.
A Costa Rica win will clinch third-place regardless of how Honduras does in El Salvador. If Costa Rica ties and Honduras wins, Honduras would finish third thanks to a better goal difference. If Honduras fails to win, the Ticos qualify regardless of how they fare against the Americans.
"It's very important for us to qualify for the World Cup by taking care of our business without having to worry about other results," Ticos veteran defender Luis Marin told FIFA.com.
Costa Rica started the final round with four wins in five games before suffering three straight losses, which led to Coach Rodrigo Kenton's sacking and replacement by Brazilian Rene Simoes, who guided Costa Rica to 4-0 over Trinidad & Tobago on Saturday.
"The US team knows how to control a match very intelligently," Simoes said.
Costa Rica last won a qualifier in the USA in 1985 when it ended the Americans' campaign to reach the 1986 World Cup with a 1-0 win in Torrance, Calif.