WCQ: USA likely faces brutal start to qualifying

The scenario is set for the USA to face a brutal start to the Hexagonal, the final round of World Cup 2018 qualifying in the Concacaf zone. If form holds, it will open at home against Mexico and then away to Costa Rica in November.

USA in the Hexagonal (First two dates)
2013: 3 points (1-2 at Honduras, 1-0 vs. Costa Rica)
2009: 4 points (2-0 vs. Mexico, 2-2 at El Salvador)
2005: 3 points (2-1 at Trinidad & Tobago, 1-2 Mexico)
2001: 6 points (2-0 vs. Mexico, 2-1 at Honduras)
1997: 4 points (0-0 at Jamaica, 3-0 vs. Canada)
Note: 1997 Hexagonal did not begin with all six teams playing on first two dates.

The USA has beaten Mexico four straight times by the score of 2-0 at home in qualifying, all in Columbus. Two of the Dos a Cero games took place in February, earning the nickname "La Guerra Fria" (The Cold War); the other two were played in September and resulted in the USA clinching berths in the World Cup finals.

Because FIFA has reduced the dates on the international calendar from 12 to 10 in 2017 and the last two dates are reserved for World Cup qualifying playoffs, Concacaf has for the first time spread qualifying over two years -- two in November 2016 and eight in 2017.

The semifinal round of Concacaf qualifying ends in September, the Concacaf's FIFA dates in October are reserved for friendlies -- the USA has scheduled a match against Cuba in Havana on Oct. 7 -- and the Hexagonal starts in November.

On Friday, Concacaf conducted a draw for the Hexagonal's 10 dates, determining matches for each of the 30 games based on final placements in the semifinal round -- first and second in each of the three groups.

To date, Mexico is the only team to clinch a berth in the Hexagonal -- and has also clinched first place in Group A with four wins.

The USA is currently second behind Trinidad & Tobago in Group C but will finish first if it beats St. Vincent & The Grenadines away and T&T in Jacksonville in September.

As A1, Mexico opens on the road against C1. There won't be any "Guerra Fri" but how about "El Baile de Otoño" (The Autumn Ball)?

Costa Rica sits in first place in Group B, three points ahead of Panama, and faces last-place Haiti away and Panama at home in September. If the Ticos and USA win their groups, they will meet on the second November date in Costa Rica.

The top three teams in the Hexagonal will advance to Russia 2018. The fourth-place team will face the Asian playoff winner -- its fifth-place team -- in a two-leg playoff in November 2017.

Concacaf Semifinal Round:
Mexico 12 points; Honduras 4, Canada 4; El Salvador 2.
Sept. 2
El Salvador vs. Mexico // Honduras vs. Canada
Sept. 6
Mexico vs. Honduras // Canada vs. El Salvador
Costa Rica 10 points; Panama 7; Jamaica 4; Haiti 1.
Sept. 2
Haiti vs. Costa Rica // Panama vs. Jamaica
Sept. 6
Costa Rica vs. Panama // Jamaica vs. Haiti
Trinidad & Tobago 10 points; USA 9; Guatemala 6; St. Vincent & The Grenadines 0.
Sept. 2
St. Vincent & Grenadines vs. USA // Trinidad & Tobago vs. Guatemala
Sept. 6
USA vs. Trinidad & Tobago // Guatemala vs. St. Vincent & The Grenadines
Note: Only St. Vincent & The Grenadines is mathematically eliminated from the Hexagonal.
Concacaf Final Round (Hexagonal):
Matchday 1 (November 2016)
C1 vs. A1 (Mexico) // A2 vs. B2 // C2 vs. B1
Matchday 2 (November 2016)
B1 vs. C1 // B2 vs. A1 (Mexico) // A2 vs. C2
Matchday 3 (March 2017)
C1 vs. A2 // C2 vs. B2 // A1 (Mexico) vs. B1
Matchday 4 (March 2017)
B2 vs. C1 // A2 vs. B1 // C2 vs. A1 (Mexico)
Match day 5 (June 2017)
C1 vs. C2 // B1 vs. B2 // A1 (Mexico) vs. A2
Matchday 6 (June 2017)
A1 (Mexico) vs. C1 // B2 vs. A2 // B1 vs. C2
Matchday 7 (September 2017)
C1 vs. B1 // A1 (Mexico) vs. B2 // C2 vs. A2
Matchday 8 (September 2017)
A2 vs. C1 // B2 vs. C2 // B1 vs. A1 (Mexico)
Matchday 9 (October 2017)
C1 vs. B2 // B1 vs. A2 // A1 (Mexico) vs. C2
Matchday 10 (*October 2017)
C2 vs. C1 // B2 vs. B1 // A2 vs. A1 (Mexico)
*Simultaneous kickoff.
Note: Concacaf did not set dates for matches. In 2013, the twin dates were on Friday and Tuesday.

Other notes:

-- The closest thing the USA could have to a winter home-field advantage -- like the Guerra Fria games and March 2013 Snow Bowl against Costa Rica -- if it wins Group C is a home game in March 2017. But that game will be against Canada if it advances.

-- The possible USA-Mexico second leg in Mexico will likely have to rescheduled for the second June date to before the first June date because of Mexico's participation in the Confederations Cup.

-- If form holds, the USA will close the Hexagonal at Trinidad & Tobago in October 2017. Shades of 1989?

-- If the USA wins Group C, one advantage it will have in the Hexagonal is to open at home during each of the five fixture windows (with the possible exception of the aforementioned switch in schedule in June.)

1 comment about "WCQ: USA likely faces brutal start to qualifying".
  1. David Mont, July 9, 2016 at 12:31 p.m.

    Brutal would be playing Germany, Croatia, Portugal...

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