Thirty-one down, one to go.
Australia secured passage to the 2018 World Cup on Wednesday by thumping Honduras, 3-1, in Sydney to win the two-leg intercontinental playoff by the same aggregate margin.
Mile Jedinak, a 33-year-old midfielder from Aston Villa, scored three goals in the second half, including two penalty kicks, before Honduras claimed a late goal as the Aussies qualified for the fourth consecutive cycle. Honduras had finished fourth in CONCACAF’s hexagonal, one slot ahead of the United States.
So CONCACAF will send three teams to Russia next summer: Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama. The Asian confederation will boast five: Iran, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Australia.
The final World Cup berth will be settled tonight as Peru welcomes New Zealand to Lima following a 0-0 draw in Wellington last week. Kickoff is at 9:15 p.m. ET on beIN Sports, Universo, fuboTV, beIN Sports Connect, Universo Now, Telemundo Deportes en Vivo and telemundodeportes.com.
>> While the World Cup countdown continues, notable teams that failed to qualify might end up playing in the United States before the big tournament commences.
Multiple sources told the Insider that the U.S. Soccer Federation and Soccer United Marketing are, indeed, looking into “possibility” of bringing non-World Cup sides such as Italy, Netherlands, Ghana and Chile over here for a tournament or series of matches.
All of these teams, including the United States, are going to end up playing friendlies in late May or early June anyway, so the thought is to bring them together. Rest assured, given the circumstances of missing the World Cup, there would be no trophy.
The question is whether some of these teams would want to play one another in one country or face Russian-bound qualifiers tuning up for the World Cup. It seems like a longshot to arrange a multi-team event (scheduling, venues, logistics, etc.) on six months’ notice, but American officials seem poised to try.
>> MLS will conduct the expansion draft Dec. 12 for the purpose of supplying newcomer Los Angeles FC with current league players. LAFC will select only five in total, and no current team can lose more than one. [Additional details] Last year, Atlanta and Minnesota chose five apiece. Current clubs will protect 11 players, but many others will be exempt from selection because of their roster classification.
Meantime, the league has also set the dates of the re-entry drafts (Dec. 15 and 21) and named Orlando as the site of the scouting combine ahead of the Jan. 19 college draft in Philadelphia. As usual, the draft has been incorporated into the annual United Soccer Coaches convention. Last year, the combine and draft were both in the Los Angeles area.
>> The Vancouver Whitecaps and Columbus Crew will visit Honolulu for the Pacific Rim Cup, a four-team preseason tournament at Aloha Stadium, Feb. 8-10. The other clubs are Japan’s Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo and Iwaki FC.
>> Americans abroad today:
Crystal Dunn and Chelsea visit Rosengard (Sweden) in the second leg of an UEFA Women’s Champions League round-of-16 matchup. The English club won the first meeting, 3-0.
>> NCAA men’s teams from the Washington region have set their kickoff times for home matches over the next several days:
Virginia Tech vs. Air Force, 6 p.m.
Maryland vs. Albany, 7 p.m.
William and Mary vs. Columbia, 7 p.m.
Old Dominion vs. N.C. State, 7 p.m.
Georgetown vs. SMU or Central Arkansas, 1 p.m.
Virginia vs. Fordham or St. Francis (N.Y.), 5 p.m.
Virginia Commonwealth vs. Butler or Lipscomb, 5 p.m.