The Battle for CONCACAF: Work Left For The US To Do
With two relatively straight forward fixtures this week, the United States National Team is almost guaranteed to be leading the Hexagonal after this international break. But this will guarantee nothing, as the one time magic 15 point mark for World Cup qualification from CONCACAF is almost sure to be exceeded by four nations this cycle.
Here is how the Hex is likely to stack up after this upcoming week’s fixtures:
Costa Rica 15
(home teams all win with the exception of US vs T&T)
It is possible though the Hex could also look like this……
Costa Rica 13
(Mexico and Costa Rica draw at Saprissa)
Or like this…….
Costa Rica 16
(Mexico draws Honduras at Azteca, Ticos get a point in San Salvador)
This final scenario is the only one where the US will be virtually home free going into a tough final round of fixtures.
Right now, Honduras boasts several footballers hitting their stride aboard. Wilson Palacios has been one of the players of the season thus far in the Premier League, while Hendry Thomas and Maynor Figeroua have both looked solid as well.
Mexico, without Carlos Vela for this upcoming fixture round can virtually guarantee avoiding the 4th spot if they can get something at Saprissa this weekend. A draw would leave Mexico likely to finish the Hex with 19 points, since they have two more games at Azteca as well as a fairly easy trip to Port of Spain in the set of qualifiers.
With this in mind, it will be very difficult to see the US getting anything in Honduras, especially given the US’ poor road performances against the likes of Cuba, Guatemala and El Salvador over the last thirteen months.
So here is the likely scenario after nine fixtures:
Costa Rica 18
This would particularly tasty for writers, as Honduras final qualifying fixture is at El Salvador. These two nations fought a war over World Cup qualifying forty years ago. Mexico would likely get win over T&T and would qualify with 18 points.
It would also require the US at a minimum to get a draw and possibly a full three point win against a side that also may need a result to assure qualification.
In other words, two victories this week do move the US towards automatic qualification, but do not guarantee it as has been written elsewhere. With the number of draws down in CONCACAF this year, and Central American football improving, the US unfortunately is still a long way off from guaranteeing passage to South Africa.
Ultimately, the US should get there, but qualifying has not been the easy ride some thought it would. This has less to do with the US, but more to do with the improving standard of football in CONCACAF.