Sunday, March 27, 2016

Will U.S. Fail to Qualify for 2018 WC?

In round four of group C of the North, Central, Caribbean qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the U.S. finds itself in 3rd place with three games to go. Only the top two from the group advance to round five.

It's the halfway point for the group and the U.S. finds itself behind Trinidad/Tobago and Guatemala.

The U.S. is in a tough spot in their qualifying process, and arguably, they are playing in the easiest of the three groups.  None of the other two groups have a complete also-ran like St. Vincent/Grenadines in their group. This is a country/team that has lost all three of its matches by a total score of 13-3. Out of all 12 countries, it is the only team to have no points thus far in the round.

Each country has played each other one time. But, because of the lack of St. Vincent/Grenadines as a threat to any of the other three teams, the U.S. must consider Trinidad/Tobago and Guatemala as assured of three more guaranteed points. Therefore, the U.S. has to step up and beat Guatemala in its next game for sure or risk the possibility of not getting through to the next round and thus, not qualifying for 2018.

As the points stand, if the U.S. tie versus Guatemala, then, much of their qualification rides on their game versus Trinidad/Tobago.

A tie against Guatemala may not be good enough because it leaves open the chance that each of them win against St.Vincent/Grenadines and Guatemala versus Trinidad/Tobago ends in a tie, leaving the possibility of the U.S. 'outside looking in' for qualification.

With a U.S. tie versus Guatemala, a U.S. win versus Trinidad/Tobago and a tie between Guatemala versus Trinidad/Tobago, all three teams will finish with eleven points at the top of the table and then the top two to qualify for the next round is left up to 'goal differential' for who advances.

Speaking of the next round, it would seem that the U.S. has its work cut out for them in that round, too, if they are fortunate enough to make it there. At this point, I don't think they are the favorite at any level. They are too inconsistent with no real goal-scoring force. Their play in the loss to Guatemala on Friday showed off their weaknesses on both the offensive and defensive ends.

How would a 2018 WC feel without the hopes of the U.S.A. attempting to do more than ever before in a WC (with the exception of 1930)? Generally, this is the expectation for the U.S. in every WC. In the modern era, since 1990, the U.S. has qualified for every WC and hasn't advanced further than the quarterfinals. We're all hoping for improvement in the next WC, but to not get a chance to improve, to not qualify, that will be a tough pill to swallow.

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