U.S.-Jamaica: Scenarios and pressure in focus

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Is tonight’s World Cup qualifier pitting the United States and Jamaica at Crew Stadium the most pressure-filled match since 2001?

This story makes the case.

I went over some of the pressure points of World Cup qualifier cycles past in this post. But, yes, this is where most of the exits are all covered, still leaving the United States with escape routes in the event of a loss – but not many of them.

U.S forward Jozy Altidore sums it up nicely as the United States bids for one of two berths in final round World Cup qualifying:

If we don’t win on Tuesday, it gets pretty scary.”

Basically, it goes like this:

Let’s just assume Guatemala wins tonight at Antigua and Barbuda. (That’s no slam dunk, but them’s the odds.)

  • If the United States wins tonight: it leaves three teams tied atop the group (Jamaica, Guatemala and the United States). Jurgen Klinsmann’s team has two winnable matches remaining, at Antiqua and Barbuda and at home on Oct. 16 against Guatemala (in Kansas City). Considering that Jamaica and Guatemala will take points from each other on Oct. 12, the United States would find itself in a good spot. All the nail-biting of the past few days would quickly fade to memory.
  • If the United States loses: Klinsmann’s men would wake up Wednesday morning in disarray, still in control of their World Cup fate, but asking serious questions of themselves. Jamaica would need just one point to clinch a final-round berth, leaving Guatemala and the United States to scrap for that second spot. Essentially, the United States would probably have to win both of its remaining matches, probably paying attention to goal difference, too.
  • If the United States ties tonight: It doesn’t change things too much, although it does add a little more wiggle room than the previous unlovely scenario. The United States might still need two wins to advance, depending on that Oct. 12 result in Guatemala City. Either way, the United States would be under tremendous pressure going into its final pair of semifinal round qualifiers.

(MORE: Jurgen Klinsmann’s bid for improvement at stake tonight)

(MORE: Clint Dempsey talks about playing on 9/11)