This week, head coach Bruce Arena finalized his roster for Team USA’s upcoming World Cup qualifying matches. There weren’t many surprises, but one thing is for sure, USMNT is not at full strength heading into one of the most important stretches of the year. Coming off an impressive Gold Cup run, where the United States defeated the most elite teams in North and Central America to win it all, Arena had to piece his team together after significant injuries to projected starters John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin.
How It Works
World Cup qualifiers are separated by continents and regions, so there are a lot of nations competing for the final 32 slots. In fact, there are a total of 211 nations eligible for World Cup qualification. The CONCACAF division is composed of national teams from North and Central America, as well as the Caribbean. There are five total rounds of qualifiers before the three or four teams solidify their spots in the World Cup. CONCACAF is guaranteed 3.5 spots, which means that the top three teams automatically make the tournament, while the fourth-place team will compete in an intercontinental playoff against the fifth qualifying team from Asia.
Final Four Games
Currently, there are six teams remaining in the CONCACAF region with the final round set to wrap up in October. Team USA is third in the standings with eight points, just one point ahead of Panama for the third automatic qualifying spot. Mexico and Costa Rica hold the top two spots in the standings with 14 and 11 points, respectively.
USMNT will host Coast Rica on September 1st in New Jersey. This is an extremely important game for the United States, as they can tie Costa Rica for second place in the standings with a win. If they lose, they could be in jeopardy of falling to fourth place.
They play a pivotal match against Honduras four days later on September 5th, a must-win game considering they face off with Panama, the team they are in direct competition with for the third spot, on October 6th. The good news is that USMNT plays Trinidad & Tobago on October 10th to finish up the final qualifying round.