Everything comes down to the final three qualifying matches.
[SWIFT KICKS] The USMNT have just three games remaining in the CONCACAF qualifying process for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Currently, the U.S. are in second place with 21 points. In my opinion, the team’s current form leaves them with no shot of catching an undefeated Canadian squad, who sit top of the table with 26 points.
Mexico is right behind the U.S. in third place, also with 21 points. And while Panama and Costa Rica have 17 and 16 points respectively, they’re still quietly hanging around and posing a threat to the U.S.
Now, whether you’re a casual fan or the most rabid, Gregg Berhalter loving, Old Glory waving supporter of the USMNT - you’re likely concerned about the U.S. qualifying for the World Cup. And I think you’re right. There is a scenario in which they could miss out.
The next and final three qualifiers for the U.S. are all important.
It starts on the road in Mexico. And while the U.S. have put a recent string of big wins together against El Tri in the 2019 and 2021 Gold Cup Finals, and the 2021 CONCACAF Nations League final, it’s worth remembering how close those games were. Each was separated by just one goal.
The U.S. hasn’t been prolific in front of the net during these qualifiers- scoring 16 goals in 11 matches. If Berhalter continues to fail to get his talented young group of attacking players firing, then it’s my belief that it’s not so out of the realm of possibility that Mexico walks away from this match with 3 points, and leapfrogs the U.S. in the table.
The second match in question for the U.S. is a home game against Panama on March 27.
You may remember last October that Panama beat the USMNT 1-0 in Panama City. They'll of course be looking for a repeat victory as they fight to stay in qualifying contention. They’ll also have just played bottom place Honduras, placing them on a theoretical 20 points.
Even a draw here isn‘t great for the U.S. (although it would be welcome), but a shock loss is disastrous. In our scenario here- If Panama wins, Panama and Mexico will have both jumped above the U.S.
That would leave America in 4th place - a spot they can still qualify from via a play-in match against the Oceana region winner - but a spot that will put immense pressure on them leading in to the final qualifier.
If this all plays out and the USMNT heads to Costa Rica needing a win to avoid missing out on the World Cup - it will be a game unlike anything ever seen in the team’s recent history.
I should note that for Costa Rica to be fully in position to play the upset card they’ll have to beat Canada at home on March 24. However, I do not like the US Men's odds away from home with such a massive amount of pressure on them. Costa Rica have just announced too that their stadium will be open at 100% capacity. 35,000+ fans waiting to see you lose; Talk about intimidating.
Costa Rica missed out on taking points against the US in Columbus, Ohio last time they met because of an own goal they scored. Clear up some mistakes - and things could be different.
Not to be a doomsdayer- but if the US loses all three of their upcoming matches and fail to qualify, it will be a dark dark day for U.S. soccer.
No amount of Gregg Berhalter‘s behind the back ball passing, or selfies with fans during games will be able to save the US Soccer Federation from answering some very uncomfortable questions.
Let’s hope I’m wrong.