Win likely clinches, tie OK, but loss ...

[USA-MEXICO] The overriding theme out of the U.S. camp on Monday was: finish the business.

Ridge Mahoney: "Domino effect of U.S. absences goes beyond Bradley"

“You do not want to wait,” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said at Monday's press conference in Columbus. “You want to [qualify] at the next possible chance. Knowing what Mexico is going through, but we have to look this purely from our end,  and we have got to secure our points, and make sure nobody is getting nervous about it.”

A win over Mexico on Tuesday will clinch a berth in the World Cup finals unless Panama beats Honduras on the road.

But what would happen if the USA didn't beat Mexico for a fourth time in Columbus? There's huge difference between tying Mexico and losing to El Tri.

Since it doesn't matter where the USA finishes in the top three, the key figure to look at is how many points is the USA ahead of the fourth-place team.

It currently leads Mexico by five points, so it will maintain its five-point lead over Mexico with a tie but its advantage will be reduced to two points with a loss.

A USA-Mexico tie means the USA will clinch a berth in the World Cup finals with a win over Jamaica on Oct. 11 in Kansas City. No help from anyone else will be needed.

But a U.S. loss to Mexico means a win over Jamaica won't be enough to clinch on Matchday 9 unless the USA gets some big help. Among the possibilities: Mexico doesn't beat Panama at Azteca the same day or Honduras doesn't win either of its next two games against Panama and Costa Rica. And even they won't be enough 

As Klinsmann says, there's no need to get everyone nervous if it can be helped, and that's what would happen if it came down to the final day of the Hexagonal and the USA needed a result at Panama to clinch and avoid the intercontinental playoff against New Zealand, or worse yet elimination.

Up until now, the USA has always clinched before the final day of play in the Hexagonal.

Hexagonal Schedule:
Sept. 10
USA-Mexico
Jamaica-Costa Rica
Honduras-Panama

Hexagonal Standings:
PTS TEAM W-T-L +/1
14 Costa Rica 4-2-1 11/5
13 USA 4-1-2 8/6
10 Honduras 3-1-3 8/8
8 Mexico 1-5-1 4/4
7 Panama 1-4-2 5/7
3 Jamaica 0-3-4 2/8

Hexagonal Schedule:
Oct. 11
USA-Jamaica
Mexico-Panama
Honduras-Costa Rica
Oct. 15
Panama-USA
Jamaica-Honduras
Costa Rica-Mexico
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