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It’s been eight years since the U.S. Men’s National Team has played in a World Cup. After missing out on the world’s most prestigious soccer tournament in 2018, the USMNT is looking for redemption in 2022. The team can find it this week, starting with a massive World Cup qualifying match versus its biggest rival, Mexico. 

The U.S. Men’s National Team is on the verge of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup

After 11 CONCACAF World Cup qualifying matches, the USMNT sits in second place with 21 points. Those points came from six wins, two losses, and three draws, putting the squad four points behind first-place Canada and in a virtual tie with Mexico for second.

America’s soccer team has three games remaining to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which starts in November this year due to the extreme summer heat in the Middle Eastern country. 

Three teams from CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American, and Caribbean Association Football) will make the 32-team World Cup field. The fourth-place team will face-off against the Oceania winner (almost assuredly New Zealand) for a potential fourth berth. 

In the next week, the USMNT will play three of the final CONCACAF four teams in contention for those World Cup spots. The side has matches at Mexico (March 24), home vs. Panama (March 27), and at Costa Rica (March 30).

Controlling its own destiny, the USMNT needs five points (teams get three points for a win, one point for a draw) in these final three matches to punch its ticket to Qatar. However, with the right set of results, the squad can qualify following its game vs. Mexico. 

How the USMNT Can Clinch a World Cup Berth vs. Mexico

Two wins in the next three matches or a win and two draws will get the U.S. Men’s National Team over the line and put the team in the 2022 World Cup. However, there is a way that the U.S. can gain those five points in the standings in one shot. 

A win over Mexico would give the U.S. 24 points in the standings. 

While the USMNT and Mexico go at it in Mexico City on Thursday, fourth-place Panama (17 points) is hosting Honduras, and fifth-place Costa Rica (16 points) is playing Canada at home. 

If Honduras beats Panama, the best the third-place Central American country could do would be 23 points. Similarly, if Costa Rica loses to or draws with Canada, 23 points would also be its ceiling.  

So, while it is possible for the USMNT to join the 2022 World Cup field against Mexico, the team will have to do something no other USMNT side has ever done: Pick up a World Cup qualifying win at Estadio Azteca. 

USMNT vs. Mexico preview

USMNT starting eleven during a World Cup qualifying match vs. Mexico at TQL Stadium on November 12, 2021 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
USMNT starting eleven for its World Cup qualifying match vs. Mexico on November 12, 2021 | John Dorton/ISI Photos/Getty Images

Estadio Azteca is an 87,00-plus-seat stadium more than a mile above sea level in Mexico City, Mexico. The venue has been a house of horrors for the USMNT over the years. The team has won just one game ever in the stadium (a 2012 friendly) and is 0-3-3 in World Cup qualifying matches, per ESPN

The USMNT beat Mexico 2-0 in the two countries’ last World Cup qualifying clash on November 12, 2021, at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. Christian Pulisic (Chelsea) and Weston McKennie (Juventus) netted for the U.S., and the team held on for the victory despite an 89th-minute red card for USMNT defender Miles Robinson (Atlanta United). 

Heading into Thursday’s meetup, the USMNT is struggling with injuries. McKennie is out for several months with broken bones in his left foot, and goalkeeper Matt Turner (New England Revolution/Arsenal) was left off the roster with an ongoing ankle issue. Winger Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg) and fullback Sergino Dest (Barcelona) will miss the Mexico game as well. 

The positive news is that attacking midfielder Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund) will return to the squad after hamstring injuries have kept him off the USMNT since September 2021. 

It certainly won’t be easy, but if the USMNT can make history on Thursday night (kickoff at 10 pm ET) and win in Mexico, they will make up for 2018’s historic collapse and triumphantly return to the World Cup. 

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