SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras — Panama’s 3-0 home victory over Trinidad and Tobago late Tuesday dropped the United States into fourth place in the World Cup qualifying standings and set the stage for a massive match between the Panamanians and Americans on Oct. 6 at Orlando City Stadium.
If the Americans win that game, they can then punch a ticket to Russia four days later by winning at last-place Trinidad and Tobago. A draw in the last game could also do the trick, depending on the outcome of Panama’s final match Oct. 10 at home against Costa Rica.
A Panama victory in Orlando would clinch the third spot and send the Americans scrambling for fourth place. A U.S.-Panama draw would leave the race very much up in the air.
So no matter what happens Oct. 6, the U.S. fate will be settled in Port of Spain at Hasely Crawford Stadium — the site of Paul Caligiuri’s “shot heard round the world” in a 1990 qualifier.
Five minutes from securing the third spot Tuesday, Honduras is now fifth and in need of points in remaining matches at Costa Rica and home vs. Mexico. The Catrachos’ terrible goal differential is not helping their cause.
Clearly, the schedule favors the United States, which, until Bobby Wood’s 85th-minute equalizer at Honduras on Tuesday afternoon, was staring at a probable fifth-place position ahead of the last two matches. That goal looms large: Had the Americans lost, they would’ve been three points behind Honduras and two behind Panama.
At the moment, through eight matchdays, Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama are the automatic qualifiers. The United States would have to face Australia or Syria in a two-leg playoff in November.
- Mexico 5-0-3, 18 points, +8 goal differential
- Costa Rica 4-1-3, 15 points, +7
- Panama 2-2-4, 10 points, +2
- United States 2-3-3, nine points, +1
- Honduras 2-3-3, nine points, -7
- Trinidad and Tobago 1-7-0, three points, -11
Panama at United States in Orlando, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN and Univision networks tbd)
Honduras at Costa Rica in San Jose
Trinidad and Tobago at Mexico in San Luis
United States at Trinidad and Tobago in Port of Spain (beIN Sports, Universo)
Mexico at Honduras in San Pedro Sula
Costa Rica at Panama in Panama City