With first place secure, USA still has a role to play in World Cup Qualifying.
Having completed its home schedule with a 2-0 win against Jamaica that sealed first place in CONCACAF qualifying for the third consecutive cycle, the United States now stands with the opportunity to match the best performance in the Final Round in team history when it faces Panama on Tuesday, Oct. 15, in Panama City. Kickoff at Estadio Rommel Fernandez is set for 9:30 p.m. ET (8:30 p.m. local), and the match will be broadcast live on beIN SPORT. Fans can follow live on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker and on Twitter @ussoccer.
For Panama, the implications are much bigger. Sitting in fifth place and three points behind Mexico, Panama must beat the United States in order to have a chance to finish in fourth place to advance to the Intercontinental Playoff against New Zealand. A victory combined with a Mexico loss to Costa Rica would virtually guarantee passage.
Hexagonal Picture: In the other results from last Friday, second-place Costa Rica lost to Honduras 1-0, assuring Honduras of finishing no worse than fourth place which would require an Intercontinental Playoff against Oceania’s New Zealand. Mexico garnered a much-needed 2-1 victory against Panama at Estadio Azteca. Raul Jimenez’s dramatic bicycle kick in the 85th minute was the game-winner as Mexico moved to 11 points and sits in fourth place in the standings.
Only two of CONCACAF’s three automatic berths to the 2014 FIFA World Cup are secure (U.S. and Costa Rica), as Honduras travels to face Jamaica holding onto third place with 14 points. A draw would be enough for the Hondurans to book passage; a defeat along with a Mexico victory would leave them level on points and going to the tiebreakers to determine the outcome.
All three of the final matches of the group will kick off simultaneously.
After going a perfect 5-0-0 at home with eight goals scored and zero surrendered, the U.S. sits in first place in the group with 19 points (6-2-1 overall). A win against Panama would earn the U.S. a total of 22 points from the final phase, equaling the mark set by the squad in the 2005 cycle.
With only four more international fixture dates between now and the start of World Cup training camp next May, U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann is using these games as the start of preparation for Brazil. Competition for spots on the 23-man World Cup roster remains fierce, and good performances in qualifiers can translate into future opportunities for the players here in Panama City.