The US Men’s National Soccer Team (USMNT) is set to play its final three qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup over the next nine days! They go to Mexico on Thursday night, play at home against Panama on Sunday, and end qualifying on the road at Costa Rica next Wednesday. The USA knows that five points from a possible nine will be enough to qualify for this fall’s 2022 World Cup in Qatar, will they be able to be up to the task?
Final Three Qualifiers
These final three games for the USMNT are against opponents who are all still able to qualify. The top three spots in the standings automatically qualify for the World Cup, and the fourth-place team plays in an inter-continental playoff. Right now, Mexico sits in third on 21 points, Panama in fourth on 17, and Costa Rica in fifth on 16. The USA also has 21 points but is just ahead of Mexico thanks to goal difference. Here’s a look at the USMNT’s upcoming final three qualifiers.
- @ Mexico | Thursday, March 24, 10:00 pm
- vs Panama | Sunday, March 27, 7:00 pm
- @ Costa Rica | Wednesday, March 30, 9:05 pm
It looks like no team is going to catch standings leaders Canada who sit comfortably with 25 points, so the USA and the three teams they face in these coming matches are fighting for the remaining spots. The USMNT starts that quest Thursday night at the Azteca.
How to handle Mexico at the Azteca?
USA-Mexico is a heated rivalry, and it renews on Thursday night with sky-high stakes. Both the USMNT and Mexico sit on 21 points and a win for either side ramps up their chances of qualifying for Qatar 2022. On paper this game is the most difficult for the USMNT; how they handle this match will set the tone for the other two.
Should the USA play their strongest starters in this game, and the team gets three points, it would be seen as a justified move; however, if there is little rotation and they lose, then things won’t be sunshine and roses. USA coach Gregg Berhalter will have to make the decision that best helps this team qualify. They need five points from three matches, do they get any against Mexico, or go all out vs Panama?
Winning at home vs Panama is paramount!
Panama has been a team full of intensity throughout this qualifying cycle. It has allowed them to stay in, and win games when their talent maybe was lacking. They beat the USA in Panama, now they’ll look to do the same at the USMNT’s last home game of the qualifying window.
The USMNT needs to win this final home game if they want to feel more comfortable about qualifying. I’d expect the best XI players playing in this match, and the ruckus crowd in Orlando to help the boys in Red, White, and Blue take all three points. This is the most important game in this window for the USA, but can they get the job done?
Can’t underestimate Costa Rica on the final day.
In 2017, the USMNT only needed a draw on their final day of qualifying. We all know how that one ended down against Trinidad and Tobago. An uninspired loss, coupled with other results saw the USA sitting at home at the 2018 World Cup. In 2022, the team hopes to be nowhere near the same scenario when they go to Costa Rica on the final day.
Costa Rica is a few good results away from qualifying themselves. They’ll likely need a win on the final day to secure a spot. It will be a tough game, but the USA will need to remember 2017, and not repeat their same mistakes. Underestimating an opponent on the last of the final three qualifiers would be the worst thing that could happen!
Can the USMNT exocise their demons from 2017 and qualify for the 2022 World Cup? It will be a stressful nine days, but USMNT fans will back their boys ’till the end!
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Mandatory Credit: Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire