The USMNT has one and a half feet in the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and now fans can begin to celebrate. However, qualification is not yet officially official, even despite the near qualification.
Fans will now have to endure an awkward few days with qualification all but ensured, but not fully confirmed.
Costa Rica still lurks three points back of the U.S., and Los Ticos still wait to welcome the USMNT on Wednesday. Yet it would take an astronomical and truly catastrophic result to knock the U.S. from its qualification pedestal, one so utterly unrealistic that it would seem fans can allow themselves to celebrate.
With a point in hand from the infamous Estadio Azteca plus a famous 5-1 thumping of Panama at home, the U.S. now travels to Costa Rica with a spot at the 2022 World Cup all but confirmed.
CONCACAF World Cup qualifying standings
Coming into the March qualifiers, the United States sat second in the Octagonal table, four points behind Canada. The top three spots are automatic qualifiers, while fourth place earns a spot in the intercontinental playoff against the winner of the Oceania region.
After the first two matches against Mexico and Panama, the U.S. has clung to that second spot, with at least a top-four finish mathematically confirmed. The United States managed a draw with Mexico at the Azteca, taking a critical point home to Orlando where the U.S. hammered Panama 5-1.
With Costa Rica winning its first two matches of the March qualification slate, Los Ticos have jumped into the fourth spot and are theoretically still within reach of a World Cup qualifying spot.
With the results, Canada has officially qualified for the World Cup, Panama and El Salvador have been officially crossed off the list of teams able to qualify for the World Cup, joining Jamaica and Honduras as teams mathematically eliminated from contention. Now, the U.S. and Mexico are in pole position for the other two automatic qualifying spots, with Costa Rica clinging to life. Should Los Ticos fall short, they would still advance to the intercontinental playoff spot, set to play the winner of the Oceania region.
* = qualifies for intercontinental playoff
W = clinched top 4 spot, X = clinched qualification, Y = eliminated from top 2, but can advance to fourth round, Z = eliminated from contention
How can the United States clinch a World Cup spot against Costa Rica?
There are a number of ways the United States can officially clinch a World Cup spot on Wednesday against Costa Rica, and they cover nearly all the realistic outcomes on the night.
The U.S. will qualify for the 2022 World Cup directly with one of the following results:
- A win or draw vs. Costa Rica
- A loss vs. Costa Rica by a five-goal margin or less
- A Mexico loss or draw vs. El Salvador, regardless of U.S. result vs. Costa Rica
Can the United States be eliminated from World Cup contention against Panama?
YES, but it would take such an astronomically skewed result, that the outcome is extremely unlikely.
The United States heads into the final match of World Cup qualifying against Costa Rica, the team directly below it in the standings. Costa Rica sits three points back, meaning it must win to keep its hopes alive.
But that’s not all. Costa Rica must make up a monumental goal differential to pass the U.S. The United States sits with a goal differential that is 10 better than Costa Rica, meaning in order to make up that gap and pass the USMNT in the standings, Costa Rica would need to win by a gargantuan five goals.
But that’s still not all. It wouldn’t be enough for the U.S. to just fall below Costa Rica in the standings. The United States goal differential is also six better than Mexico’s, so to fall down below Mexico and into the trepidation fourth spot, assuming a Mexico win over El Salvador, it would actually need to lose by six goals.
But that’s still not all. All this would