It’s crunch time in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers and the USMNT go into their tough closing run of World Cup games with work to do to confirm their place.
Who do Bettors Favor?
Soccer fans checking out the latest odds on the online sportsbooks will see that the USMNT are outsiders for their opening game of the final three in Mexico. The visitors are rated at +265 shots with most sportsbooks, while Mexico are priced up around +120 and the draw can be backed at +220. The USA will likely be a shorter price for their two remaining fixtures, though much may depend on how the Mexico game goes, and sportsbooks will be studying that one carefully.
|Mexico v USMNT|
USMNT Qualifying Campaign So Far
It is fair to say that this qualifying campaign has not gone to plan. After victory in both the CONCACAF Gold Cup and Nations League, Greg Berhalter’s team were expected to make a strong challenge for a World Cup spot, but their performances have been more erratic than fans would have wished for.
A 0-0 draw with El Salvador in their first game was disappointing, and that was followed by another draw, at home to Canada. Convincing wins over Honduras and Jamaica suggested that they were getting back on track, but they continued to blow hot and cold, beating Mexico, but losing to Panama and Canada and being held to a draw against a poor Jamaican side.
The USMNT go into their final round of games four points behind Canada in second place and still to book their World Cup spot, though with a four-point lead over fourth-placed Panama.
Mexico v USA, 2022-03-24
At this point in the schedule, both sets of fans might have expected their teams to be more or less assured of qualification, but it hasn’t worked out that way.
Mexico’s campaign has been even more disappointing than that of the USMNT. Gerardo Martino’s side started in solid fashion and were undefeated in their first six games, but back to back defeats to the USA and Canada, as well as a poor performance in a draw against Costa Rica saw them lose ground and drop to third in the table, level with the USA but with a poorer goal difference.
Both teams therefore will need two wins from their last three games to be certain of qualification, although depending on how other results go, they might be able to qualify with a slightly lower total. With home advantage, Mexico would look the stronger option here, but their last two games are against Honduras and El Salvador, which they would expect to win comfortably. For the USA, a draw here would be priceless and that’s what I think they will set out to achieve.
USA v Panama, 2022-03-27
Thomas Christiansen’s Panama side go into their final round of qualifying fixtures in fourth place in the table, and if they can hold that position, that will be good enough to put them into an inter-confederation playoff that will give them the chance to compete for a World Cup qualifying place.
It isn’t impossible that they could do better than that, but with both the USA and Canada among their last three fixtures, fourth is realistically their best option and they will certainly have plenty to play for here.
Panama are a tough team to analyze. They have been well beaten by Canada, but have also managed a draw with Mexico and famously beat the USA in the reverse fixture. Much could depend on how well the USA get on in their opening game. If they earn a point or better against Mexico, that will alleviate some of the pressure, but defeat in the preceding game would see them drop to third and if this game goes badly they could even potentially drop into fourth spot.
Costa Rica v USA, 2022-03-30
By the time they travel to Costa Rica, the USA will expect to have confirmed their qualification. That would be the ideal scenario, because this could be a particularly tricky fixture.
Luis Fernando Suarez‘s side have found form after a sluggish start to the qualifying campaign. The catalyst for the revival appears to have been the 95th minute winner against Honduras, which they followed up with narrow wins over Panama and Jamaica and a solid draw with Mexico.
Having conceded only one goal in four full games, it is easy to see where their strengths lie, and there is every possibility that Costa Rica will go into this game with something still to play for, which could make this an extremely uncomfortable game for the USMNT. If they were to head to Costa Rica needing a win, I would be wary of banking on them getting it.