CONCACAF WCQ preview: Hex places on the line for USA, Panama; revenge for Canada

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The penultimate matchday of CONCACAF’s fourth round of 2018 World Cup qualifying is upon us. By the end of Friday, five of the six places in the Hexagonal could be secured.

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St. Vincent and the Grenadines vs. USA — 3:30 p.m. ET, Watch live on NBCDeportes.com

The path to the Hex can be very simple for the U.S. national team: if they win their final two games, away to St. Vincent and the Grenadines and home to Trinidad and Tobago; if they lose to or draw with either the Group C cellar-dwellers or leaders, respectively, it leaves the door wide open for Guatemala to slide into second place.

It’ll be far from a first-choice squad when Jurgen Klinsmann’s side takes the field on Friday: none of Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones or John Brooks will be in Kingstown, St. Vincent through injuries, personal health reasons or suspension. Thus, massive opportunities for Bobby Wood, Sacha Kljestan (one can only hope) and Omar Gonzalez (again, we can hope) to further solidify their places in Klinsmann’s setup. The last time the USMNT played away to a tiny island nation in the fourth round of qualifying, they needed a 90th-minute goal from Eddie Johnson to top Antigua and Barbuda.

[ MORE: UEFA int’l roundup ]

Honduras vs. Canada — 5 p.m. ET, Watch live on NBCDeportes.com

The last World Cup qualifier played between Honduras and Canada in San Pedro Sula? You remember it every day of your life, if you’re Canadian. That’s because it finished 8-1 on that fateful day in October 2012. On Friday, Benito Floro’s men go for revenge, and their first Hex appearance since qualification for the 1998 World Cup (the Canucks finished last with six points from 10 games, and a -15 goal differential).

The fourth round started off well for Canada, with a win over Honduras in Vancouver on the opening day, but a scoreless draw away to El Salvador and back-to-back losses to Mexico in March (by a combined score of 5-0) means everything is still to play for in these final two fourth-round fixtures, particularly Friday’s, with both Honduras and Canada on four points. Canada’s big advantage? Honduras still have to play Mexico once more, while they face El Salvador in Vancouver on Tuesday.

[ MORE: CONMEBOL WCQ roundup ]

Panama vs. Jamaica — 9:30 p.m. ET, Watch live on NBCDeportes.com

Panama’s path to the Hex is far simpler than that of the USMNT: if they beat Jamaica on Friday, they’re through with a game to spare. It’s something they’ve already done in the fourth round, winning in Kingston back in November. Given their runners-up finish at the 2015 Gold Cup, so much more was expected of Jamaica this qualifying cycle, but they followed up that strong showing with a 0-for-3 finish at the 2016 Copa America and have proceeded to fall flat on their faces in WCQ.

Elsewhere in CONCACAF WCQ

Group A

El Salvador vs. Mexico — 10 p.m. ET

Group B

Haiti vs. Costa Rica — 8 p.m. ET

Group C

Trinidad and Tobago vs. Guatemala — 7 p.m. ET