What the US Men’s National Team needs to qualify for the World Cup

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The U.S. Men’s National Team will play Panama on Friday night in their penultimate match of 2018 World Cup qualification.

With a win, the USMNT would all but punch their ticket to Russia next year – and playing against an inferior opponent on American soil in Orlando, the Americans should win.

However, this group also has a penchant for coming up short against lesser teams. The Americans have lost at home twice during this cycle of CONCACAF qualification – before this run, they had lost in just two of 53 home matches dating back to 1980.

Thankfully, CONCACAF qualification is forgiving enough to allow for these slip-ups, but Friday against Panama, it’s do or die time for the team. Take a look at how the USMNT odds of qualification swing depending on the result.

Currently, the USMNT sits at fourth in the table in the final stage of CONCACAF qualifying, known as “The Hexagonal,” one point behind Panama and just ahead of Honduras thanks to a solid goal differential. With a win against Panama, the Americans would jump into third place, and would automatically qualify for 2018 as long as they can take care of business against Trinidad & Tobago, a team they already beat with relative comfort earlier in Hex play.

But the last time Panama and the United States met on the pitch, Panama was able to eek out a 1-1 draw, frustrating the U.S. and their attack. Should Panama be able to draw the against Michael Bradley and company again, the USMNT’s chances will start become worrisome.

Thankfully, there’s a lot of history on the Americans’ side here. The United States have not lost at home three times during a qualification cycle since 1958, and has never lost to Panama in seven meetings, and has won five of those matches outright.

Due to disappointing results in the Hex, it’s felt that every match for the USMNT throughout qualification has been more important than the last. But on Friday, the Americans are out of second chances.