The U.S. men's national team currently sits fourth in the Hex on 4 points, which is good enough for an intercontinental playoff spot for a World Cup berth – for now. There are 6 points up for grabs when the Americans face Trinidad & Tobago on Thursday (7 p.m. ET, live on FS1) and Mexico on Sunday (7:30 p.m. ET, live on FS1).
Based on previous cycles, we can expect the USMNT will need to get between 11 and 13 points to qualify for the playoff spot. But playoffs are risky and the USMNT is surely aiming to qualify outright. That, based on previous cycles, will require between 14 and 16 points.
So, what would each set of results from these two World Cup qualifiers mean for the USMNT's hopes to make it to Russia? Here's a primer:
An unmitigated disaster. Zero points would mean that the USMNT lost to Trinidad & Tobago, aloow T&T to leapfrog over the USMNT in the standings and push the USMNT out of qualifying position with only four matches left to play.
If this round of the Hex goes like previous cycles, the USMNT would need to somehow squeeze between 10-12 points out of those last four matches to qualify outright, which means basically winning all the matches left. They could aim for only a playoff spot, but they'd still need between 7 and 9 more points for that. Qualifying for the World Cup would start to look very unlikely.
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One draw would be pretty awful. We wouldn't know exactly how the rest of the table would look without knowing the other results, but the USMNT would have just 5 points.
Based on history, they'd need to get 9 to 11 points out of their final four matches to directly qualify, which is asking a lot. They'd need 6 to 8 points for a playoff, which is also a lot, and there'd be reason to worry the USMNT would miss out on Russia.
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A pair of draws would leave the USMNT with a sizable hole left to dig out of. And the troubling part would be that they have a tough match vs. Costa Rica left and road matches in Honduras and Trinidad & Tobago, which are never easy.
They would need to get about 8 to 10 points in their last four matches to directly qualify. The 5 to 7 points in their last four matches to get a playoff spot would be less daunting, but still problematic and leave them with entirely too much work to do considering their usual dominance in qualifying.
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One win for the USMNT, presumably their win at home, is a good goal. If they beat Trinidad & Tobago, they will put further separation on the table between them and T&T, who sit in last place. A win vs. Mexico, while less likely, would also be less helpful because there's little hope of the USMNT surpassing Mexico in the standings – the U.S. would rather keep the lower teams from getting into the top four.
One win would put them at 7 points, needing about another 7 to 9 in their last four matches to qualify outright, or 4 to 6 points to qualify for a playoff spot, which is tough but doable.
This seems to be the realistic best-case scenario: a win at home and a draw in Mexico.
It would leave the USMNT with a decent chance to qualify because they'd only need about 6 to 8 points to qualify outright – at least two wins out of four matches, which includes two home games. A playoff spot would be well within reach, with the USMNT needing between 3 to 5 points for that.
Two wins in two matches this week is a dream scenario that would place the USMNT on track in a very comfortable position. They'd sit on 10 points and only need about 4 to 6 points in the four next games to qualify directly for the World Cup, or 2 to 4 points to try their luck in a playoff.