The regional qualifying picture in CONCACAF begins de-muddling tonight. By June 18 all six World Cup aspirants will have played three more matches, so we’ll have a much better handle on the final round qualifying bunch, on who can really start dreaming plausibly about Brazil – and who got stuck shin guard-deep in the mud.
So that’s the quick background as we talk about Mexico’s trip tonight into Independence Park in Kingston to meet Jamaica.
I know it falls as anathema to so many U.S. fans, but here’s why you should probably root for … yes, Mexico:
Look at the standings over there on the right. As you can see, Jamaica is already on a bit of a tumble. Things started with such promise in a scoreless draw at Mexico, but the Reggae Boyz simply couldn’t capitalize on the momentum, drawing subsequently at home to Panama and then losing on the road at Costa Rica.
Simply put, it’s better for the United States’ World Cup ambition if teams begin dropping out of the race. (Remember, three of the six nations qualifying for Brazil, with the fourth-place team moving on to a home-and-away play-in series with Oceania’s winner.)
What U.S. fans don’t really want to see by the end of June is a big six-team jumble, where everyone is taking points from everyone – and all six teams remain in the hunt.
If Jamaica loses tonight and then loses or draws on Friday against the United States, the Reggae Boyz will be well behind in the chase, almost to the point of being spectators for the remainder of qualifying chase. It’s really just math. If just five teams are competing for four spots, the U.S. chances improve.
Yes, you could say that Mexico would be similarly affected by a loss tonight – but Mexico has the talent to pick up points and make up ground fast. I’m not sure we can say the same about Jamaica.
I know it’s hard to root for Mexico. Maybe impossible. But considering that the Americans are up three nights later for Jamaica, and considering the bigger implications, maybe you can “take one for the team,” as they say.