All the nervous drama of World Cup qualifying has been removed for the United States national team, with its ticket to Brazil 2014 safely tucked into Jurgen Klinsmann’s coat pocket.
But that’s certainly not the case for others in the CONCACAF region, especially for our weary neighbors to the south, fighting for their Tri-Colored lives in a qualifying campaign gone horribly sideways.
While the United States is out of the competitive fray for itself, Klinsmann and Co. still have something to say about who goes to Brazil from our little brother region. Most tantalizing is how the United States is now in position to actually assist Mexico in its desperate quest to get to Brazil.
Here’s how that works:
With two rounds of matches remaining, Mexico is currently tied with Panama for fourth in the region’s six-team, final round group. Three nations advance automatically; the United States and Costa Rica have locked up two of those berths, so one automatic invite dangles still. A fourth CONCACAF country goes into a November play-in series against New Zealand.
Mexico hosts Panama at once-storied Azteca Stadium on Oct. 11. That. Is. Huge.
Then it really gets interesting. The United States finishes with an Oct. 15 match at Panama. There is a strong possibility that Mexico might need — Need! — the United States to win in order to get into that fourth spot. Mexicans rooting for the United States in soccer? Dogs and cats … Living together!
(MORE: How will the United States handle qualifiers going forward)
That could possibly put Klinsmann and U.S. Soccer in an awkward spot. They certainly won’t need their top performers, many of whom might get club push back for traveling from Europe all the way down into Central America — literally halfway around the world — for a match so meaningless to the Yankee cause.
Even if the Americans summon their top men, can they really match the motivation of a scrappy Panamanian bunch that is willing to bleed and break their own bones to get into a World Cup for the first time ever? That would be truly epochal stuff for the small Central American land, and that will hardly be lost on the proud Panamanian players.
Klinsmann said Tuesday that he will not relinquish the serious business of World Cup qualifiers, indicating that he will absolutely bring his best available figures into these remaining two qualifiers. He talked about the importance of getting this group together as much as possible to further fuse team cohesion ahead of Brazil 2014.
Either way,they scenario and how it all unfolds will be fascinating to watch.