The U.S. national team is in a tight spot at the halfway point of World Cup qualifying’s semifinal round. Tonight’s match against Jamaica might not be a must-win, but it’s pretty darn close to it.

Best-case scenario: The Americans win and Guatemala loses at Antigua & Barbuda, leaving the USA and Reggae Boyz at seven points apiece, and the Chapines and Benna Boys stuck at four each.

Worst-case scenario: The Americans lose and Guatemala wins, all but clinching passage for Jamaica and putting Guatemala three points ahead of the USA with two matches remaining.

My prediction: USA wins, 1-0, and Guatemala settles for a 0-0 draw at A&B. That would leave the Americans and Jamaicans at seven points, Guatemala at five and Antigua on two heading into the October qualifiers.

From Elias Sports Bureau, Friday’s loss to Jamaica was only the third in the last 40 years in a qualifier in which the USA relinquished a lead.

This isn’t the first time the United States has labored in the semifinal round: In the summer of 2000, a draw in Guatemala was followed by a loss at Costa Rica. The Americans then responded with three victories and a tie, capped by a fidgety win at Barbados.

The Jamaica Gleaner posted this report ahead of tonight’s match, under the headline: “Gigantic battle!”

TV reminder: ESPN2 and Galavision, starting at 8 p.m. ET. Kickoff is at 8:12. (Live coverage on is available in the Pacific time zone only.)

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