Team USA's dimming World Cup hopes explained

History gives mixed messages on what the United States should expect in Honduras on Tuesday, as it battles to save itself from the embarrassment of missing the 2018 World Cup.

Having beaten Honduras 6-0 in a World Cup qualifying home match in March, the team could be forgiven for being highly confident as it heads to San Pedro Sula for its eighth game out of 10 in the final qualifying phase.

However, facing Central American opposition on the road is a very different proposition, as the U.S. discovered in 2013, losing 2-1 in the first game of an ultimately successful campaign.

What follows is a look at what the different outcomes would mean for coach Bruce Arena and his men as things get tense on the road to Russia.

The U.S. closes out its campaign by taking on Panama at home on Oct. 6 and Trinidad and Tobago on the road four days later.

CONCACAF’s top three teams reach the World Cup, with the fourth-place team going into a playoff against an Asian team. Mexico has already clinched a place, and Costa Rica is close to doing so with 14 points. The U.S. and Honduras each have eight points, Panama with seven and Trinidad and Tobago in last with three.

With a win Tuesday, the Americans would ...

► Control their destiny, needing two wins or a win and a tie in the final two games to qualify for the World Cup.

► Guarantee at least a playoff spot with a victory over Panama, regardless of goal differential

With a tie, the Americans would ...

► Control their destiny, needing two wins to qualify for the World Cup.

► Be in danger of finishing fifth and missing the playoff vs. an Asian team. That's the scenario they face should Panama beat Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday and then the U.S. in October.

With a loss, the Americans would ...

► Guarantee at least a fourth-place finish and a playoff spot with victories in its final two games.

► Be eliminated from the World Cup with a defeat to Panama, if Honduras claimed at least one point from its final two games.

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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