Costa Rica plan Mexico upset, Honduras host Jamaica

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The US national team are playing a key World Cup qualifier against Panama in Seattle tonight, you probably knew that.

But elsewhere in CONCACAF qualifying, two huge games kick off prior to the USMNT this evening.

With the standings so tight and all three automatic World Cup spots wide open, these next round of games will prove pivotal in deciding who takes charge of the Hex.

In the Azteca at 8pm ET Mexico host Costa Rica, with Los Ticos aiming for a huge upset to rival the 2001 win in Mexico City. El Tri are struggling along. They’re joint top of the Hex but have played one more game than the US and Costa Rica, and Jose Manuel de la Torre could be out of a job soon if he doesn’t couple results with impressive displays. With the Confederations Cup coming up next week, the Mexicans have to get their act together, quickly.

Mexico have conceded just twice in their five World Cup qualifiers so far, but scoring has been their main problem. With just three goals to their name and after three shutouts, El Tri must up the offense against Costa Rica in the Azteca this evening.

While in Honduras at 9pm ET, the home side will be desperate to record a win against bottom side Jamaica. A demoralizing 1-0 defeat to Costa Rica on Friday has seen Honduras drop back in the standings, meaning three points against the Reggae Boyz is vital ahead of tough road trips to the US and Mexico.

Lineup changes are planned as Honduras aim to mix things up, will that do the trick tonight against Jamaica? A draw would be a good result for the USMNT, or maybe even a Jamaica win.

(More: Confident United States expecting victory against Panama)

But with just five points separating top from bottom, a win for Jamaica would complicate things further.

I pose you this question, is there a more competitive World Cup qualifying region on the planet? I doubt it.

There’s no room for error and with the margins between winning and losing in CONCACAF so slim, teams are extremely reluctant to go gun-ho for the win. Hence the incredible amount of draws so far.

But by the end of this evening we should have a better idea who will qualify from CONCACAF for World Cup 2014…then again, probably not.

(More: US lineup prediction vs. Panama)

LAFC selects Urena, 4 others in MLS Expansion Draft

Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
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Los Angeles FC selected five players in the MLS Expansion Draft, including Costa Rican national team star Marco Urena.

Whether they’ll make their way to the City of Angels is another story.

The first pick from general manager John Thorrington was goalkeeper Tyler Miller from Seattle Sounders.

[ MORE: Benitez on NUFC struggles ]

Going next was Latif Blessing from Sporting KC, an electric attacker who netted thrice with an assist last season.

Next was Urena from San Jose and the Costa Rican national team, a huge addition, and then Columbus left back Jukka Raitala before closing up the draft with Raheem Edwards from Toronto FC.

LAFC has already announced the signings or acquisitions of Carlos Vela, Walker Zimmerman, Carlos Alvarez, Monday Etim, and Guillermo Vizcarra.

The club will also loan Omar Gaber from Basel and Rodrigo Pacheco from Lanus.

WATCH LIVE: Three Premier League matches

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Chelsea visits the John Smith’s Stadium to face Huddersfield Town in one of three Premier League fixtures this chilly Tuesday in December (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The Blues are now 14 points back of Manchester City, and three points clear of fifth place.

Meanwhile there are a pair of matches on NBC Sports Gold: Burnley looks to keep pace with its Top Four ambitions when it hosts struggling Stoke City, while in-form Crystal Palace seeks a home win that would move it out of the drop zone. In its way? Dangerous, attack-minded Watford.

Burnley vs. Stoke City — 2:45 p.m. ET [ STREAM ]

Huddersfield Town vs. Chelsea — 3 p.m. ET [ STREAM ]

Crystal Palace vs. Watford — 3 p.m. ET [ STREAM ]

FIFA bans Colombia midfielder Cardona 5 games for gesture

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA has banned Colombia midfielder Edwin Cardona for five matches for making a discriminatory gesture with his eyes toward a South Korean opponent.

FIFA will allow Cardona to serve the ban in friendly games, so he should be available for Colombia’s World Cup opener against Japan on June 19.

[ MORE: Pep on post-derby celebrations ]

Cardona has also been fined 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,150) because of the incident last month in a friendly in Seoul.

Cardona apologized at the time, saying he “didn’t mean to disrespect anyone, a country or a race, but if anyone felt offended, or interpreted it in that way, I am sorry.”

Spurs’ Alderweireld won’t return until February

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Spurs finally got a bit of good news this weekend with a blowout of Stoke City.

That was a followed by a tough draw against Juventus in the UEFA Champions League, and bad news on an old injury.

[ MORE: Benitez on NUFC struggles ]

Center back Toby Alderweireld is going to be gone into February, extending his time on the sidelines with a hamstring injury suffered Nov. 1 against Real Madrid.

Spurs were 6-2-2 in league when Alderweireld went down, and are just 2-2-2 since the injury. The Belgian has missed losses at Arsenal and Leicester, draws against Watford and West Brom, and wins over Crystal Palace and Stoke.

Tottenham did win both of its UCL matches since the injury.