Here’s What USMNT Needs To Do To Qualify For 2022 World Cup

It’s not time to celebrate just yet, but USMNT fans can breathe a little more easily now. What USMNT needs to qualify for World Cup 2022 is to avoid catastrophe on the final day of qualifying. 

After the U.S. beat Panama 5-1 thanks to a Christian Pulisic hat trick on Sunday night in Orlando, Florida, the Americans are assured of a top-four finish in Concacaf World Cup qualifying. The top three teams in the table are guaranteed a spot in Qatar while the fourth-place team goes to an intercontinental playoff against the top team from Oceania, either New Zealand or Solomon Islands (who play Wednesday). 

So what needs to happen Wednesday to ensure the U.S. qualifies automatically with one game left against Costa Rica? It’s quite simple.

What USMNT Needs To Qualify For World Cup 2022

  • USMNT win vs. Costa Rica
  • USMNT draw vs. Costa Rica
  • USMNT defeat to Costa Rica by fewer than six goals

That’s it. Win and the Americans are in. Draw and they’re in. Lose and make sure it’s not a disastrous defeat and they’re in. 

What USMNT Needs To Qualify For World Cup 2022, how many points are needed?

Currently, the USMNT is second in the Concacaf table. Canada, which clinched its first berth to the World Cup since 1986 on Sunday, is already in with 28 points while the U.S. is second with 25, even with Mexico but ahead on goal difference. Costa Rica is the only other team in the running, three points back on 22, knowing it needs to win and win big for any chance to avoid the playoff in June. All other countries are eliminated (Panama, El Salvador, Jamaica and Honduras). 

(The first tiebreaker for teams even on points is goal difference followed by goals scored then points between tied teams.)

The final round of matches will see the U.S. travel to San José, Costa Rica, to play Los Ticos, Mexico host El Salvador at the Azteca, Canada visit Panama and Jamaica welcome Honduras to Kingston. 

As mentioned, the U.S. just needs one point to book its trip to Qatar. This is the same scenario the Americans faced in 2017 when they just needed a win or draw at Trinidad and Tobago, but there is more leeway this time as the Americans hold such a large advantage in goal difference, though every goal scored in the USA-Costa Rica match shifts goal difference between them by two because they are playing each other.

Even if the USMNT suffered defeat to Costa Rica, direct qualification is assured unless it’s a defeat of six goals or more because of the American’s massive goal difference advantage (+13 to +3). If Costa Rica beat the USMNT by five goals, the Americans would still be ahead of Costa Rica on goals scored, which the U.S. holds a significant advantage in as well (21 to 11). And even if the USMNT lost by six goals, it could still get in if Mexico fails to get a point from its final match against El Salvador, or via the playoff. 

If the U.S. avoids defeat by six or more goals on Wednesday, it will be in Pot 2 for the World Cup draw on Friday. If the USMNT has to go through the playoff in June, it will be in Pot 4. (We explain the USMNT pot chances here.

The U.S. isn’t in, but they’re as in as you can get without having clinched that berth. While you can’t take anything for granted, knowing the Americans have a five-goal lead to protect will make Wednesday’s showdown in Costa Rica much easier than four years ago against Trinidad and Tobago. That said, the USMNT has never won a World Cup qualifier in Costa Rica. The last time the U.S. earned a point at Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying was 1986, when a 1-1 draw wasn’t enough to save the USMNT from elimination in the first round of Concacaf qualifying.

The Americans can’t pop that champagne just yet, but keep the bubbly on ice because it’s happening soon. 


What USMNT Needs To Qualify For World Cup 2022

  • Games Remaining: 1
  • Points Available: 3
  • Max Points Needed For Top 3: 1
  • Likely Points Needed For Top 3: 0
  • Max Points Needed For Top 4: 0 (already clinched)

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