*The United States and Costa Rica will meet tonight at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn., in what is the first of likely three encounters over the next seven weeks.

This one means the least. Both teams have already secured passage to the next stage. At stake: First place in Group C of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

The Americans need a victory or draw to clinch the top slot and set up a quarterfinal against probably Martinique on Sunday in Baltimore. A loss would relegate them to second and a knockout match against Group B winner Honduras on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.

Coverage tonight begins at 8 p.m. ET on Fox Soccer and UniMas, as well as foxsoccer2go.com, univisiondeportes.com. Belize and Cuba will kick off at 5:30.

There is a reasonable expectation the Americans and Ticos will collide in the semifinals next Wednesday at Cowboys Stadium. And the sides are set for a World Cup qualifier Sept. 6 at National Stadium in San Jose. The USSF has confirmed kickoff time for the Costa Rica visit (6 p.m. local, 8 p.m. ET) and TV coverage (beIN Sport, which owns rights to all U.S. away qualifiers, except the Mexico City visit).

One Gold Cup quarterfinal is locked into place:

Mexico vs. Trinidad & Tobago on Saturday night at Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

T&T upset Honduras, 2-0, last night in Houston to claim second place in Group B. El Salvador’s 1-0 victory over Haiti secured a third-place position in the next stage (it appears ES will play Panama in the quarters) and eliminated the Haitians.

*D.C. United declined to offer contracts to Guatemalan trialists Jaime Vides and Cristian Noriega (both defenders). Vides is now working out with Colorado. Sheriff Suma, a left wing for the Sierra Leone national team, will begin a trial with United this week.

*Fact of the day: The Washington Spirit (1-10-4) has gone 816 minutes without a goal in the run of play (two penalty kicks). United (2-13-4) has gone 744 minutes (in league play) without a goal in the run of play (two penalty kicks). Combined: 1,560 minutes, or 26 consecutive hours of soccer, without a goal in the run of play for Washington’s pro teams.

Both clubs visit the Chicago area (Red Stars and Fire) on Saturday night.

*Coming soon to a bookstore (a what?) or e-book near you:

Summer of ’67: Flower Power, Race Riots, Vietnam and the Greatest Soccer Final Played on American Soil,” by Ian Thomson.

The book charts the story of the National Professional Soccer League and the United Soccer Association’s “creation and demise and recalls the experiences of its participants … memories of the capers, the gimmicks, the celebrity brushes and the games that combined to provide them with the trip of a lifetime.”