One automatic qualification place and one playoff place remain up for grabs as matchday ten of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying gets underway Tuesday evening.
With simultaneous kickoffs at 8 p.m., the U.S. Men’s National Team, Honduras and Panama are all in contention for the final automatic qualifying spot or the playoff place to book a spot at the 2018 World Cup.
The USMNT controls its own destiny and is in with a win and most likely a draw, but Panama and Honduras have one advantage – both are playing at home against teams that have already qualified and have nothing left to play for.
Let’s take a quick look at the other two matches in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying:
Panama vs. Costa Rica
Los Canaleros have never made a World Cup finals. This may be their last chance for a while.
A golden generation of Panamanian players are all getting past their prime together, and this could be their last World Cup cycle together.
With 10 points and a -2 goal differential, Panama are currently in the pole position for the qualifying playoff place that would see them face either Syria or Australia.
But for what it’s worth, Costa Rica doesn’t plan on lying down. They remember how Jonathan Bornstein’s stoppage time goal sent them into the World Cup playoff, where they faced and fell to Uruguay, which went on to make it to the World Cup semifinals in South Africa.
“It will sound rude, but we are not interested in what benefits Panama or Honduras, we are not going to give the qualification to anyone,” Patrick Pemberton, Costa Rica goalkeeper said. “We are very aware of what happened to us in the United States, when they, being qualified, sent us to the playoffs for the World Cup in South Africa. That is why we do not intend to go to Panama to water the classification to anyone, much less to send them to the playoffs, we want to go to add three points, close the tie well.”
Honduras vs. Mexico
Honduras, like Panama has one goal on Tuesday. Make at least the World Cup playoff stage.
All that’s standing in Los Catrachos’ way is Mexico, but it won’t be the same El Tri that dazzled during the World Cup qualifying campaign.
Javier “Chicharito Hernandez received “special permission” to leave the Mexican National Team while star winger Hirving Lozano suffered an elbow injury, forcing him to return to his club PSV Eindhoven for treatment.
Perhaps Honduras then can take advantage of a slightly weaker El Tri to record a crucial win in the Olimpico Metropolitano Stadium, which is always a difficult stadium to play in. Mexico has managed two wins and a draw in its last three trips to San Pedro Sula.