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What USMNT has to do in final World Cup qualifiers

The USMNT has three matches left in World Cup qualifying play. We’re taking a look at the road ahead and what needs to happen to secure a spot in Qatar this November.

Honduras v United States: 2022 World Cup Qualifying Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

With the 2022 FIFA World Cup just around the corner in Qatar, CONCACAF’s final round of qualifying is coming to a close with one last window of matches for each team. The US Men’s National Team will finish out their qualifying campaign with tough games against Mexico, Panama, and Costa Rica as they look to stay in the top three and grab one of the automatic bids.

The USMNT currently sits in second place, tied on points at 21 with third-place Mexico, but holding the lead on the goal differential tiebreaker. Canada is in first place, four points clear of the USA and Mexico with 25. The USMNT has to be careful through these last three games, as all three teams are still looking to qualify. Panama sits with 17 points in fourth place, followed closely by USA’s final opponent Costa Rica, in fifth place with 16 points.

As a refresher, the top three teams at the end of this qualifying round will receive an automatic berth into the World Cup tournament in Qatar, while the fourth place team will play in an inter-confederation playoff in hopes of securing a spot. The CONCACAF team finishing in fourth will play against the winner from the Oceana Football Confederation’s qualifying tournament to determine who will be heading to Qatar in November.

USA will open this next window against rivals Mexico at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. It’s far from an easy place to play, as the USMNT has never won a World Cup Qualifier there. They’ve logged a single win, back in March of 2013 as they secured a 1-0 victory in a friendly, but they’ve never been able to take home all three points in a competitive match. USA hasn’t been there since June 2017, when they earned a draw in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign. They’ll have another chance to earn their first competitive win at Estadio Azteca if coach Gregg Berhalter fields his preferred starting eleven to go for the win.

However, USA doesn’t absolutely need to win all three of their final matches to book a spot in Qatar. Earning five points through the next three matches would do the trick, meaning they would only really need to grab one win from the next three as long as the other two end in draws. Ideally, they could grind out a draw in Mexico and secure wins over Panama and Costa Rica to ensure they’d finish in the top three. They’ll be playing Panama at home and should be viewing that match as a must-win regardless, with an eye on winning the final match in Costa Rica as well.

Gregg Berhalter and the squad will need to do everything they can to make sure they don’t repeat the mistake of 2017 — heading into the final match day only needing a draw, but losing instead and missing out on the World Cup altogether.

The final matches get underway with USMNT v. Mexico on Thursday, March 24 at 10:00 p.m. ET as they look for a result in Mexico City. That will be followed by a home match against Panama on Sunday, March 27 at 7:00 p.m. The Americans will wrap up their qualifying campaign in Costa Rica, facing off against Los Ticos on Wednesday, March 30 at 9:05 p.m. ET.