World Cup Qualifiers-CONCACAF primer

In the coming days the CONCACAF will have national team games in order to advance to the World Cup. This is called a FIFA Week or a week where there aren’t any sort of club matches being played.

How teams from North, Central, and the Caribbean go to the World Cup in 2018?

There are Five rounds. Rounds 1-4 are already done. Rounds one and two consists of the lowest ranked members of the conference: Bahamas, Bermuda, Antigua, Nicaragua, Dominica, US Virgin Islands, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, St. Kitts and Nevins, Turks and Caicos, Belize, Curacao, Cayman Islands, and Monserrat in a playoff style series* in which one team advances to the next round.

Round three consists of teams that are a bit higher, again in a playoff style system. From those 20, only ten move on and then face the teams that did not make it past Round 3 the last time around in another playoff style system.

In round four, the teams that made it to the Hexagonal (Round 5) for the 2014 World Cup join the fray. This time it is a group style system that the top two from the three groups move on to Round 5. The current round that we are in has 6 teams in it, playing 10 games (5 home, 5 away).

How many spots are reserved for the World Cup in Russia in 2018?

Three or Four. The top three teams are qualified automatically and the fourth placed team plays a playoff with Asia in the next iteration of the qualifiers. In the road to the Brazil 2014, it was Oceania, South Africa 2010 was COMEBOL.

What are the current standings?

As of the third week of the Hexagonal, Costa Rica is first and the US is last.

When are the matches?

March 24th

(All times are Eastern Daylight Savings time)

Mexico vs Costa Rica, Estadio Azteca, Mexico City, 8:50 pm

Trinidad and Tobago vs Panama, Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, 7:00 pm

US v Honduras, Avaya Stadium, San Jose, CA, 10:30 pm

March 28th Games

Honduras vs Costa Rica, Estadio Francisco Morazán, San Pedro Sula, Honduras 5:05pm

Trinidad and Tobago vs Mexico, Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, 7:00 pm

Panama vs US, Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City, Panama

10:00 pm

Storylines in these two games

If the US seeks to be in the conversation for the top 4 places, they need to win both games. Honduras is currently the 4th place team. Panama holds 3rd place.

As of now, the US has a goal differential of -5. In order to be relevant they need to improve that differential or if they tie in points with any of the remaining 5 teams, the US loses the tiebreaker. The first tiebreaker is goal differential.

If Panama wants to remain in the 3rd place, they need to win in Trinidad and Tobago and at home against the US. They have the advantage to the US due to the humidity of Panama City being very overwhelming.

Mexico vs Costa Rica is a matchup of the two highest placed teams in the hexagonal. Costa Rica beat Mexico at Mexico 16 years ago.

Honduras vs Costa Rica is a rivalry game. Honduras’s head Coach, Jose Luis Pinto, was the head coach of Costa Rica in the 2014 World Cup. They played once this year at the UNCAF (Central American Cup) ended in a 1-1 tie.

*Playoff games in soccer are two games, a home and away series, the higher seed has the home game the second game. In this case it is based on the team’s FIFA Ranking when the round started.

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