The U.S. Men’s National Team is set to begin the Final Round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying, also known as “The Hex”, against Mexico on Friday night, Presented by AT&T.
Here’s what you need to know as the USA prepares for its biggest match on home soil every four years:
History Against Mexico
Friday’s match marks the fifth consecutive home World Cup qualifier against El Tri to be hosted on Columbus, which became the “spiritual home of U.S. Soccer” in 2001. In each, the United States has collected 2-0 shutout victories, establishing the rally cry of “Dos a Cero” for U.S. supporters.
The USA is 12-4-1 in 2016, including a fourth-place finish in the historic Copa America Centenario and a first-place finish in Group C of the Semifinal Round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying. The MNT has posted an impressive 7-1-0 record against CONCACAF nations this year, including three road victories.
Jozy Altidore leads the MNT with six goals scored in just eight appearances in 2016, followed by Clint Dempsey with four (Note: Dempsey is indefinitely out of action due to an irregular heartbeat.). Christian Pulisic, Bobby Wood and Gyasi Zardes (out with a broken foot) have three apiece.
After posting two wins in the group stage, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s team has improved to 55-25-16 under his watch. He ranks second on the MNT’s all-time list for wins behind Bruce Arena with 71. Similarly, his overall winning percentage of .657 is just a smidge behind Arena’s .658. In official competition it’s even better. At .700, he’s tops in U.S. history.
The U.S. roster for this pair of World Cup qualifiers against Mexico and Costa Rica is made up of four goalkeepers, nine defenders, nine midfielders and four forwards.
A total of 15 players have been a part of a U.S. World Cup roster, while 20 have previous World Cup qualifying experience. The 26 players ply their trade in seven different countries: USA (8), Germany (7), England (4), Mexico (3), Canada (2), Norway (1), and Liechtenstein (1).
The team has combined for 915 caps, good for an average of over 35 per player. Michael Bradley and Tim Howard are the most experienced players on the team with 124 and 110 caps, respectively.
Pulisic is the youngest player on the roster at 18 years, 1 month and 24 days old as of Friday, while Howard is the oldest player on the roster at 37 years, 8 months and 5 days old. They are separated by a span of 19 years, 6 months and 12 days.
Howard is the Goalkeeper
During Sunday’s Facebook Live roster release, Klinsmann named Tim Howard the MNT’s number one goalkeeper.
After moving to M.L.S.’s Colorado Rapids in July, Howard has posted a 6-3-8 record and seven shutouts, enough to be named a finalist for the league’s Goalkeeper of the Year. The North Brunswick, New Jersey native came up with back-to-back penalty kick saves against the LA Galaxy to advance the Rapids to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2010.
WATCH: https://www.facebook.com/officialussoccer/videos/10154424308968941/Tim Howard Hosts Facebook Live Q&A
Howard is the most-capped U.S. goalkeeper of all-time and sits fourth on the MNT’s World Cup Qualifying appearances list with 32 games played. He’s also well tested against Mexico having faced our southern neighbors on 10 different occasions and three times in World Cup Qualfying matches.
The Rest of “The Hex”
Friday’s match marks the first of 10 Hex Matchdays, spanning from Nov. 11, 2016 until Oct. 10, 2017. The U.S. will compete against five other teams (Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, and Trinidad & Tobago) in a series of home and away matches for three guaranteed spots in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The MNT will travel south to Costa Rica over the weekend for the second Hex Matchday on Tuesday, Nov. 15, where kickoff is set for 9 p.m. ET at Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica in San Jose on beIN SPORTS and NBC Universo.