The Hexagonal -- the final round of World Cup 2018 qualifying -- begins Friday with three games: USA-Mexico, Honduras-Panama and Costa Rica-Trinidad & Tobago. The top three teams advance to the
finals and the fourth-place team faces Asia's fifth-place team.
Here's how we rank the six teams based on their performances the last two years in four competitions: Gold Cup, Olympic and
Olympic qualifying, Copa Centenario and World Cup qualifying (semifinal round). 1 Mexico (22 points).
The coaching carousal continued when Miguel Herrera
was fired after the
Gold Cup -- which El Tri won -- and Juan Carlos Osorio
, born in Colombia and educated in the United States, took over after Ricardo Ferretti
coached Mexico to the Concacaf Cup title.
Except for two games -- 2-1 loss to Ecuador at the 2015 Copa America with a "B" team and 7-0 loss to Chile in the 2016 Copa Centenario quarterfinals -- El Tri is unbeaten in competitive matches since
the 2014 World Cup. 2. USA (18 points).
The best performance by a Concacaf team at the Copa Centenario -- fourth place -- offsets a very disappointing Gold Cup -- also fourth. The
USA was 1-1-1 after three games of World Cup qualifying but finished the semifinal round with three lopsided wins by a margin of 14-0 to win the third group. The USA was third in Concacaf in Olympic
qualifying but losses to Honduras in the semifinals and Colombia in the playoffs cost it a trip to Rio for the Olympics. 3. Panama (13 points).
Of the six Hexagonal teams, the
Canaleros ranked second held only Mexico in the 2015 Gold Cup and they feel they were robbed by referee Mark Geiger in the semifinals. Panama followed that up by edging out Gold Cup runner-up Jamaica
for the second spot in their World Cup qualifying group. 3. Costa Rica (13 points).
The Ticos were the only team besides Mexico that went unbeaten in the semifinal round of World
Cup qualifying. But they went winless -- three ties in group play and a controversial loss to Mexico in the quarterfinals -- in the Gold Cup and didn't reach the knockout stage of either the Copa
Centenario or Olympic qualifying. The big win of the last two years: 3-2 victory over Colombia that pushed the Canaleros into second place behind the USA at the Copa Centenario. 5.
Honduras (9.5 points).
At the senior level, it has not been a good two years for Honduras. A last-place finish in their group at the Gold Cup cost the Canaleros even a playoff berth for the Copa
Centenario. World Cup qualifying went to the final day in the semifinal. The bright side: Coach Jorge Luis Pinto
led Honduras to the medal round of the Rio Olympics. 6. Trinidad
& Tobago (7.5 points).
The Soca Warriors were never in danger of missing out on the Hexagonal after an opening win at Guatemala in the semifinal round. That followed a solid performance at the
Gold Cup, at which T&T won its group -- ahead of Mexico -- and lost to Panama in a shootout in the quarterfinals. The disappointments: losing to Haiti in a playoff for the Copa Centenario and not
even making the final eight in Olympic qualifying. Last two years ... Gold Cup 2015.
1 Mexico 2 Panama 3
4 Trinidad & Tobago 5 Costa Rica 6 Honduras. Olympics 2016.
1 Honduras 2 Mexico 3 USA
4 Panama 5 Costa Rica 6 Trinidad & Tobago. Copa Centenario
2016. 1 USA
2 Mexico 3 Costa Rica 4 Panama 5 Trinidad & Tobago 5 Honduras. World Cup qualifying 2016.
1 Mexico 2 Costa Rica 3 USA
4 Trinidad & Tobago 5 Panama 6
6 for 1, 5 for 2, 4 for 3, 3 for 4, 5 for 2, 1 for 6.)