CONCACAF World Cup qualifying

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USWNT World Cup qualifying preview: It’s happening

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Let’s start here: The United States women’s national team is either going to qualify for this summer’s World Cup, or get everyone at U.S. Soccer fired.

Everyone.

While there’s been progress in CONCACAF women’s soccer, the USMNT and Canada dominance remains on a level unlike most confederations.

[ JPW: Messi’s Wembley masterclass ]

ESPN’s Paul Carr summed it up nicely while I was working on this particular post. Take a look.

Almost always held on home soil, the tournament plays right into the hands of the U.S. and Canada regardless of how the groups are drawn.

The top two teams in each group make the semifinals, and the teams that win their semi move on. If a favorite is upset in the semi, they simply have to avoid being upset in the third place game.

That means a USWNT team that has lost one of 28 matches in the tournament would have to lose of two in-a-row (or fail even more miserably against inferior group stage opponent). And the chances of the women sleepwalking into the tournament are very slim, given the Yanks didn’t even advance to play for a medal at the 2016 Olympics.

The USWNT has not lost in 2018, only drawing twice in 13 matches.

Their group mates are Mexico, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago.

The USWNT beat Mexico 6-2 and 4-1 in April. T&T lost 5-1 to Mexico in May. Panama is a league below Mexico, too.

Oh and in terms of long time rivals Canada? A 3-1 win and 1-1 draw in their last two meetings.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t watch, or that the matches won’t be entertaining. The U.S. is bringing six attackers with a total of 308 international goals to go with only five roster members featuring 25 caps or fewer.

What it does mean is that the 2019 World Cup is gonna happen for the confident U.S., don’t worry. If it doesn’t, a lot of people get canned. And none of them are going to sleep anxious tonight despite that reality, but they’ll also have learned the lessons the men have not.

Please don’t read this as a cocky tone, rather measured and honest. It would probably be the second most stunning negative moment in U.S. Soccer history if the women failed to qualify for France.

CAF qualifying roundup: Senegal reaches World Cup; Nigeria, Algeria draw

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A third African nation earned its place in Russia next summer, leaving just two more spots in CAF World Cup qualifying up for grabs.

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Senegal became that third nation on Friday after picking up a 2-0 win over South Africa in Group D play.

First-half goals from Diafre Sakho and an own goal by South Africa’s Thamsanqa Mkhize ensured the Lions of Teranga would represent Africa in 2018 — the country’s second-ever World Cup appearance (2002).

Senegal reached the quarterfinals back in 2002 in its only previous appearance in FIFA’s most-prestigious tournament after going unbeaten in the group stage and getting past Sweden in the Round of 16.

Meanwhile, Nigeria — who already qualified for Russia — settled for a 1-1 draw against Algeria.

John Ugo gave the Nigerians the advantage just beyond the hour mark, while Yacine Brahim pulled the two nations level in the 88th minute after converting from the penalty spot.

Friday’s scores

South Africa 0-2 Senegal

Algeria 1-1 Nigeria

Costa Rica-Honduras to be played Saturday due to tropical storm

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Costa Rica will have to wait an extra day to attempt to earn its place in next summer’s World Cup.

Tropical storm Nate has caused Friday’s CONCACAF World Cup qualifier between Los Ticos and Honduras to be moved back to Saturday as the dangerous weather passes through Central America.

[ MORE: Previewing the USMNT’s WCQ match against Panama ]

Costa Rica soccer federation chief Rodolfo Villalobos announced the decision to alter the match’s timing on Thursday night as a precautionary measure.

The qualifying fixture will take place at 6 p.m. ET on Saturday at the Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica.

Los Ticos need just one point out of their final two WCQ matches to join Mexico in Russia next summer as representatives from CONCACAF. Costa Rica currently sits second on points in the qualifying process, while Honduras is in fifth place.

Watch live — USMNT visits Honduras in must-win CONCACAF WCQ

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We already know that one team from CONCACAF has booked its place in next year’s World Cup, but two more automatic qualifying spots are up for grabs.

However, that number could be down to one by the end of Tuesday. Mexico has ensured its place in the field of 32 in Russia, but Costa Rica could join El Tri on the road to the World Cup with a win at the Estadio Nacional.

[ WATCH: All three matches live streamed on Telemundo ]

All eyes will be on San Pedro Sula though, as the U.S. Men’s National Team needs a win to keep its 2018 hopes alive. Bruce Arena and Co. cannot be eliminated with a loss, but it would certainly make the task of reaching Russia much, much more difficult.

Finally, a loss for Trinidad & Tobago could theoretically spell the end of their hopes of finishing in the top three.

Here’s a look at the CONCACAF table as things stand.

  1. Mexico (QUALIFIED) — 17 points (+8 GD)
  2. Costa Rica — 14 points (+7 GD)
  3. USMNT — 8 points (+1 GD)
  4. Honduras — 8 points (-7 GD)
  5. Panama — 7 points (-1 GD)
  6. Trinidad & Tobago — 3 points (-8 GD)

[ MORE: Three major storylines for the USMNT ahead of Honduras clash ]

Below is Tuesday’s schedule for Matchday 8 of CONCACAF WCQ.

Honduras vs. USMNT — 5:36 p.m. ET
Costa Rica vs. Mexico — 10:05 p.m. ET
Panama vs. Trinidad & Tobago — 10:05 p.m. ET

Looking back at the USMNT’s last seven WCQ campaigns

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Why is the number seven so relevant for the U.S. Men’s National Team?

It just happens to be the number of consecutive times that the Americans have reached the World Cup, which dates back to the U.S. reaching Italy in 1990.

[ MORE: USMNT faces must-win against Honduras in CONCACAF WCQ ]

While 1990 doesn’t seem like that long ago, it’s forever for the USMNT, who has taken significant strides forward since falling out of the 1990 competition with three straight defeats and only two goals to show for their entire stay.

Now, the U.S. has their backs against the wall in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying for the first time since 2002, when the Americans needed a final day loss from Honduras to reach South Korea/Japan.

Bruce Arena and the American need a positive result on Tuesday, ironically enough against Honduras, in order to see their hopes of reaching Russia next summer lifted. As things stand, the USMNT sits in third place in WCQ on eight points and three matches left to play.

Here, we take a look at the USMNT’s last seven WCQ campaigns and how the Americans fared on their way to each World Cup.

1990

The CONCACAF Championship was used for the final time to determine the two teams that would reach the World Cup, and it was an overall strange year after Mexico was disqualified for fielding overage players.

Finish: 2nd on 11 points

1994

It was a pretty easy route to the World Cup for the United States. They’ll hope to have that same path in 2026…

Finish: Hosts of tournament, didn’t need to qualify

1998

It proved to be one of the more competitive qualifying campaigns, with no nation winning more than four matches in the lead up to France. The USMNT, led by Eric Wynalda’s goalscoring, helped the team finish just behind El Tri at the top of the Hex.

Finish: 2nd on 17 points

2002

Costa Rica was the dominant side during this qualifying campaign, losing just once along their way to South Korea & Japan. The Americans, however, started out hot with five straight positive results, before slowing down significantly and needing assistance from Mexico on the final matchday to take care of business against Honduras.

Finish: 3rd on 17 points

2006

The U.S. and Mexico were riding each other’s coat tails before Germany’s competition in ’06, with the two rivals finishing tied atop the Hex on 22 points. The Americans edged El Tri based on head-to-head results, but that didn’t much matter when the USMNT reached the World Cup the following year and bailed out in the group stage.

Finish: 1st on 22 points

2010

It was a heated race to finish atop the Hex ahead of South Africa’s World Cup, with the U.S., Mexico, Honduras and Costa Rica all within four points of one another. The Americans were also riding in hot after their strong FIFA Confederations Cup campaign in 2009, which saw the team capture a historic 2-0 victory against Spain in the semifinals.

Finish: 1st on 20 points

2014

In the build up to Brazil, the U.S. managed to dominate CONCACAF, taking eight positive results out of its 10 Hexagonal fixtures. The Yanks even helped Mexico reach the World Cup with its final-day victory over Panama, who were on the verge of finishing ahead of El Tri.

Finish: 1st on 22 points