[HEXAGONAL COUNTDOWN] It should be a full day of viewing for any serious Hexagonal fan.
Sandwiched around the USA-Jamaica match will be Honduras-Costa Rica, another afternoon game in the heat of San Pedro Sula, and the big match of the day, Mexico-Panama in Mexico City, where El Tri faces the unthinkable.
If it doesn't beat the Canaleros, Mexico will finish the Hex without a win at Azteca Stadium and find itself on the verge of elimination from the World Cup.
Victor Manuel Vucetich, who will make his debut as Mexico coach, is known as "El Re Midas," but he has only 90 minutes to show he has the Midas touch.
Former New York Red Bulls defender Rafael Marquez, who has not played a competitive match for Mexico since 2011, should get the start in the middle of the backline, and three naturalized Argentines -- Lucas Lobos, Christian Gimenez and Damian Alvarez-- have been called in, prompting Panama coach Julio Dely Valdes to wonder out loud whether the Mexico or Argentina national anthem would be played before the game. (Dely Valdes later apologized.)
Mexico is favored, but Panama has had El Tri's number this year, winning 2-1 twice at the Gold Cup and holding Mexico to a 0-0 tie in Panama City.
Seven current or former MLS players are in the Honduras team that will clinch its second straight berth in the World Cup finals if it beats the Ticos and Mexico-Panama ends in a tie.
The Catrachos have called in five MLS players -- Johny Leveron(Vancouver), Victor Bernardez (San Jose), Oscar Boniek Garcia (Houston), Marvin Chavez (San Jose) and Jerry Bengtson (New England) and two former MLS players -- Roger Espinoza (now at Wigan) and Andy Najar(Anderlecht).
The game will be played in the afternoon heat of San Pedro Sula, where the Catrachos routed Canada, 8-1, a year ago to clinch a berth in the Hexagonal and they then opened the final round of qualifying with a 2-1 win over the USA. The forecast for Friday: 91 degrees.
PTS TEAM W-T-L +/1
16 USA 5-1-2 10/6
15 Costa Rica 4-3-1 12/6
11 Honduras 3-2-3 10/10
8 Mexico 1-5-2 4/6
8 Panama 1-5-2 7/9
4 Jamaica 0-4-4 3/9