Arena says USMNT unlikely to catch Mexico in CONCACAF WCQ

AP Photo/David Zalubowsk
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The U.S. Men’s National Team will surely be happy with their most recent four-point gathering during the resumption of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, but manager Bruce Arena realizes that their recent fortunes likely won’t be enough to catch Mexico at the top.

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Arena and Co. picked up a 2-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago last Thursday before earning a 1-1 draw with Mexico just three days later at the Estadio Azteca.

As things stand, the USMNT sits third in the Hexagonal — the final round of CONCACAF WCQ — on eight points, while leaders Mexico have 14 points and second-place Costa Rica have 11.

“There’s a little bit more, but there’s not a whole lot. It’s a pretty tight race at this point, and I don’t think we have any interest in finishing fourth,” Arena told U.S. Soccer.

“Our goal is second or third place, because I think Mexico is far ahead and it’s unlikely we can catch them. We can be second or third and I don’t really care which way we end up, but we certainly don’t want to be in fourth.

While the position in which the USMNT finishes doesn’t help or harm them in the qualification process for Russia 2018, the U.S. will obviously still strive for the top spot in the North/Central American region.

The top-three sides from CONCACAF automatically reach next summer’s World Cup, while the fourth-place finisher will compete in a two-legged play off with an undetermined Asian nation.

Since the start of the Hexagonal in the buildup to World Cup 1998, third-place teams in CONCACAF have needed at least 14 points to safely reach FIFA’s most-prized tournament. In order to reach or pass that threshold, the U.S. would need to win at least two more of its final four matches in qualifying.