Costa Rica charged into the World Cup before a noisy, thrilled and drenched crowd, beating the visiting United States, 3-0, last night on goals by Carlos Hernandez and Paolo Wanchope.
The Americans' shutout streak ended at 33 minutes of the first half when a rain-slicked pass from Alvaro Saborio on the right side slipped past U.S. defenders and off the hands of goalkeeper Tim Howard. Wanchope put it home.
Hernandez knocked in another goal at 60 minutes as a disorganized U.S. defense left a huge gap down the center of the field. He added a third at 88 minutes before an increasingly giddy crowd that danced and chanted in the stands.
Victory wasn't strictly necessary, however. Mexico's win over Guatemala moments earlier guaranteed Costa Rica a place in Germany next year.
Costa Rica repeatedly pushed attackers past the sloppy U.S. defense, though the visitors dominated at midfield through much of the game, often cutting off passing routes and stealing balls in mounting several dangerous but fruitless counterattacks.
With the first half winding down, a seeming goal by Taylor Twellman was called off by a foul as three Americans cut through the Costa Rican defense on a free kick by Eddie Lewis from the left wing.
Elsewhere, thirteen other teams qualified for next year's World Cup, with England, Italy and the Netherlands leading the way in Europe.
Three other European teams also made it yesterday -- Portugal, Croatia and Poland -- while Ukraine and host Germany had already advanced.
All five African spots were also filled, with Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Angola qualifying for the first time. Tunisia claimed the final spot from the region.
Also, Paraguay and Ecuador joined previously qualified Brazil and Argentina from South America.
Four Asian teams -- Iran, Japan, Saudi Arabia and South Korea -- have already qualified for the tournament.
The Netherlands made it with a 2-0 victory against the Czech Republic. The win also meant England and Poland reached the finals of the 32-team tournament.
"It's a great feeling; we're going to the World Cup in Germany. I'm a guy that won't get many more chances," Netherlands goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar said.
England defeated Austria, 1-0, on Frank Lampard's 24th-minute goal. Poland did not play, but is guaranteed -- along with England -- of either winning Group 6 or finishing as one of the two best second-place teams.
Under European qualifying rules, the eight group winners and the two best second-place teams advance. The remaining six second-place teams play off next month for three more spots.
Rafael van der Vaart and Barry Opdam scored first-half goals for the Netherlands, which improved to 31 points in Group 1.
England survived after David Beckham was sent off in the 58th minute. He drew two yellow cards in a minute and will not play in the match against Poland in Manchester, England.
In Group 8, Croatia guaranteed its place with a 1-0 victory over Sweden on Darijo Snra's penalty kick. Croatia's 23 points were enough for it to qualify at least as one of the two best second-place teams.
Italy qualified for the 12th straight time with a 1-0 win over Slovenia in Group 5. Second-half substitute Cristian Zaccardo converted a cross from Palermo teammate Fabio Grosso in the 78th minute.
The host Kansas City Wizards let a two-goal lead evaporate, and with it their fourth-place standing in the MLS East in a 2-2 tie with the New England Revolution.
* FC DALLAS 0, RAPIDS 0: Dario Sala had three saves in his first career MLS game to help FC Dallas tie Colorado in Frisco, Tex.
* CREW 2, FIRE 1: After a scoreless first half, Eric Vasquez and Simon Elliott scored as Columbus won on the road. Chicago already owns a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but the loss eliminated it from catching D.C. United for second place.
* EARTHQUAKES 2, REAL SALT LAKE 0: San Jose became the first MLS team to go undefeated at home, tying Real Salt Lake. The Earthquakes (17-4-10), who plays their regular season finale next week at Los Angeles, ended their home schedule at 9-0-7.