Win at home.
In the formula for qualifying for the FIFA World Cup, there is nothing more important.
And in the USA’s current situation, it’s more important than ever.
The MNT’s results in November to start the final round of qualifying – also known as the Hex – have put the team behind. Since CONCACAF changed its World Cup Qualifying format to its current version in the 1998 cycle, the U.S. Men’s National Team has never come away empty-handed from its first two Final Round matches.
Those score lines – a 2-1 home loss to Mexico and 4-0 defeat at Costa Rica – prompted a change in the head coaching ranks, with the U.S. Soccer Federation tapping Bruce Arena to return to the post he held from 1998-2006.
Having successfully led the MNT to the 2002 and 2006 FIFA World Cups, Arena is now tasked with righting the ship in the USA’s bid to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. When it comes to the upcoming qualifier against Honduras on March 24 in San Jose, the message from the boss couldn’t be any clearer.
“Winning your home qualifiers is the way you get to the World Cup,” Arena told ussoccer.com. “It’s crucial to get three points against Honduras to protect our home turf and get back on track in qualifying for Russia.”
So how important is this?
Yes, the start to the Final Round hasn’t been ideal, but the situation isn’t dire. In fact, the U.S. has been in this situation before at a different stage of World Cup Qualifying. During Arena’s first tenure, the MNT lost three-straight qualifiers during the 2001 Hexagonal before rallying to punch its ticket to Korea/Japan. And in that World Cup, the United States went farther than it had in 72 years, reaching the quarterfinals for the first time since 1930.
While winning at home in qualifying is the main piece of the formula that gets a team to the World Cup, the March clash with Honduras also presents the opportunity for the USA to gain points (and take them away) from a strong contender for one of CONCACAF’s three automatic berths to Russia 2018. To #Get3 points from Honduras would begin the turnaround and send the USA to Panama with positive momentum for the Qualifier at Estadio Rommel Fernandez four days later.
By the end of March, qualifying in CONCACAF for the 2018 World Cup will have nearly reached the midway point. Based on results, the roadmap to Russia will be a lot clearer. The United States has always been a team that keeps its destiny in its own hands.
It begins again with the goal to #Get3 on March 24 in San Jose.