The USA plays two games in four days -- Trinidad & Tobago on Thursday at Dick's Sporting Goods Park, home of the Colorado Rapids, and Mexico on Sunday night at Azteca Stadium. Mexico-USA is the
game everyone is talking about, but the T&T match is the must-win match.
Here's how things look going into the Hexagonal's June dates: Current Hexagonal Standings: PTS TEAM W-T-L +/-
10 Mexico 3-1-0 5/1
7 Costa Rica 2-1-1 7/3
5 Panama 1-2-1 2/2
4 USA 1-1-2 8/7
4 Honduras 1-1-2 4/9
3 Trin. & Tobago 1-0-3 2/6
The four points are the fewest the
USA has ever had in the Hexagonal after four games: USA after 4 games: YEAR W-T-L (PTS.) 1997:
2-1-1 (7) 2017:
The USA, currently in fourth place
one point behind Panama, has finished in the top three of the Hexagonal and qualified directly for the World Cup every time by a margin of three points or higher. USA margin: YEAR FINISH/MARGIN
2nd/5 pts. 2001:
3rd/3 pts. 2005:
1st/9 pts. 2009:
1st/11 pts. 2017:
4th/-1 pt. (after 4 games)
If the USA is to qualify, it likely can't drop any more points at home, making a win over T&T
essential. It has never dropped in an entire cycle more than the three points at home it dropped when it opened the 2016-17 Hexagonal with a 2-1 loss to Mexico. USA at home: YEAR: W-T-L 1997:
1-0-1 (after 2 games)
In order, these are the three ways the USA will qualify for Russia 2018, each with an increasing level of suspense: 1.
Clinch a berth in the top three before Match 10; 2.
Clinch on Matchday 10,
which might entail the USA getting a result at Trinidad & Tobago (shades of 1989?) or Mexico getting a result at Honduras (returning the favor to the USA for its 3-2 win over Panama in 2013?) or
Finish fourth and win the intercontinental playoff against Asia's No. 5 team.
The USA's strategy for the rest of
the Hexagonal is straightforward: 1.
Win at home and steal as many points on the road as possible. 2.
Have Mexico and Costa Rica, who are first and second, beat up on the USA's rivals for third place, in order Panama, Honduras and T&T.
Have Panama, Honduras and T&T drop points -- i.e. tie -- when they meet.
With that in mind, the game the USA will be
closely following in June will be Panama-Honduras next Tuesday in Panama City, and it will be rooting for a tie.
If the USA wins at home (T&T and Costa Rica) and loses on the
road (Mexico and Honduras) over the next four matchdays, a Panama-Honduras draw would likely put the USA in position to clinch with a win against Panama on Oct. 9 in Orlando.
need a result at Costa Rica or Mexico to be even or ahead of the USA before Matchday 9 and prevent the USA from clinching with a win.
The USA would also pull away from Honduras in this
scenario as long as the Catrachos didn't win at Mexico or Costa Rica or tied both away games, all tall orders. Hexagonal
Schedule: MATCHDAY 5
USA vs. Trinidad & Tobago
Costa Rica vs. Panama
Mexico vs. Honduras MATCHDAY 6
Mexico vs. USA
Panama vs. Honduras
Costa Rica vs. Trinidad & Tobago MATCHDAY 7
USA vs. Costa Rica
Mexico vs. Panama
Trinidad & Tobago vs. Honduras MATCHDAY 8
Honduras vs. USA
Panama vs. Trinidad & Tobago
Costa Rica vs. Mexico MATCHDAY 9
USA vs. Panama
Costa Rica vs. Honduras
Mexico vs. Trinidad & Tobago MATCHDAY 10
Trinidad & Tobago vs. USA
Panama vs. Costa Rica
Honduras vs. Mexico