Snapshot of CONCACAF’s remaining qualifiers
With six points up for grabs, the final two CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers are crucial - and not just for an expectant Australia08 September 2017 | FT Editor
Australia is not the only country disappointed with the need to take part in play-offs in a bid to get to next year's World Cup in Russia.
Some US Soccer authorities are of the view that it is "more and more likely" that the US national team will be forced into the intercontinental play-off against the fifth-placed Asian team after their home loss to second-placed Costa Rica and draw away to Honduras in the recent games.
The US draw with Honduras was particularly bad news for the Americans who, similar to Australia, have come under heavy criticism at home. Earlier in the year, the USA defeated Honduras 6-0 in a friendly but there is a view that the Honduras had added motivation in this week's game, in addition to World Cup qualificiation.
The USA is also the dominant partner in the joint bid to host the 48-team 2026 World Cup, along with Mexico and Canada. So far, only Morocco has indicated they also want to bid again - having done so on three earlier occasions. While missing out on 2018 would not necessarily be a fatal blow to their chances, it would be a huge embarrassment to them.
Only the top three teams in CONCACAF receive direct qualification, with the fourth-placed team to meet the winner of the two-game series between Australia and Syria.
There are two more rounds within the CONCACAF qualifying rounds with the Panama, USA or Honduras in contention for fourth place. Top of the group are Mexico who have already qualified, while Costa Rica looks comfortably in second place.
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The remaining matches to be played in October are:
- USA v Panama
- Mexico v Trinidad and Tobago
- Costa Rica v Honduras
- Honduras v Mexico
- Panama v Costa Rica
- Trinidad and Tobago v USA
US Soccer authorities believe that a win in both remaining matches will clinch a top-three spot, thus avoiding the play-offs. Anything less than that, and they could finish fourth or worse. The play-off matches are scheduled for between 6 and 14 November.
The play-off series winner is determined by aggregate goals. If the teams are tied following the second leg, the team with more away goals will move onto the World Cup. If both countries are tied on away goals, the series will be decided in extra time and, if necessary, penalties. Away goals will count in extra time.
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