Preview: USMNT In Prime Position To Clinch World Cup Qualification At Costa Rica

USA Qualifies for 2022 FIFA World Cup with Win, Draw or Loss by Less Than Six Goals; Final World Cup Qualifying Match Set for Wednesday at 9:05 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network, Paramount+, Universo and Peacock

CHICAGO (March 29, 2022) – The U.S. Men’s National Team stands on the precipice of qualification to the 2022 FIFA World Cup heading into its 14th and final match of the Octagonal. Traveling to face Costa Rica on Wednesday night, the USA would punch its ticket to Qatar 2022 with a win, draw, or loss by less than six goals against Los Ticos.


Kickoff from Estadio Nacional in San Juan is set for 9:05 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Network, Paramount+, Universo, Peacock).


Costa Rica is undefeated in its last six Octagonal matches dating back to the November window. In that time, Los Ticos have gone 5-0-1, conceding just two goals.




GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Nottingham Forest/ENG; 7/0), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 9/0), Zack Steffen (Manchester City/ENG; 28/0)


DEFENDERS (10): George Bello (Arminia Bielefeld/GER; 6/0), Reggie Cannon (Boavista/POR; 24/1), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 23/3), Shaq Moore (Tenerife/ESP; 14/1), Erik Palmer-Brown (Troyes/FRA; 3/0), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 24/2), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United; 19/3), James Sands (Rangers/SCO; 7/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami; 72/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 27/3)


MIDFIELDERS (6): Kellyn Acosta (LAFC; 50/2), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig/GER; 26/1), Gianluca Busio (Venezia/ITA; 9/0), Luca de la Torre (Heracles/NED; 6/0), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 15/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 31/0)


FORWARDS (8): Paul Arriola (FC Dallas; 44/9), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; 8/3), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 45/10), Jordan Pefok (Young Boys/SUI; 9/1), Ricardo Pepi (Augsburg/GER; 10/3), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 47/21), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund; 11/4), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 21/2)







Result/Time (ET)

TV Info

Thursday, March 24


Estadio Azteca; Mexico City, Mexico

0-0 D


Sunday, March 27


Exploria Stadium; Orlando, Fla.

5-1 W

Wednesday, March 30

Costa Rica

Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica; San Jose, Costa Rica

9:05 p.m.

CBS Sports Network, Paramount+, Universo, Peacock



With just one match left to play in the 14-game gauntlet of Concacaf World Cup qualifying, the USA is second of eight teams in the Octagonal standings. The USMNT can clinch its World Cup berth with a victory, draw, or loss by less than six goals at Costa Rica. The USA has 25 points to Costa Rica’s 22, but holds a massive advantage in the first tiebreaker - goal differential (+13 vs. +3), putting the U.S. in excellent position to qualify on Wednesday night.

The top three teams in the Octagonal qualify automatically for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, while the fourth-place team will participate in an intercontinental playoff against the winner of Oceania’s qualifying tournament. The USA is guaranteed to finish in the top four of the Octagonal.


If the U.S. loses by six goals or more to Costa Rica, it could still qualify directly to Qatar if Mexico loses to El Salvador in their final World Cup qualifying match and the U.S. maintains its goal differential advantage on El Tri (+13 vs. +7). For each goal the USA concedes after seven, Mexico needs to lose by an additional goal to maintain the edge in differential. For example, if the USA loses 8-0, El Salvador would need to win 2-0 for the U.S. to qualify automatically. If the USA loses 9-0, El Salvador would need to win 3-0, et cetera.



The USMNT put itself in prime position to qualify in Costa Rica with an emphatic 5-1 home win vs. Panama on Sunday night in front of a sell-out crowd of 25,022 at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Fla. Forward Christian Pulisic led the charge with his first international hat trick as the USA put home four first-half goals after scoring in the opening frame just four times through the first 12 games of the Octagonal.


Pulisic opened the scoring with a penalty in the 17th after Walker Zimmerman was taken down in the box during a set play opportunity. He added another penalty kick goal in first-half stoppage time when the other U.S. center back, Miles Robinson, was similarly brought to the turf. In between, some dynamic attacking play created goals for forwards and FC Dallas teammates Paul Arriola and Jesús Ferreira. Arriola headed home the game’s second goal in the 23rd, while Ferreira finished a nifty ball from Arriola in the 27th.


In the second half, Pulisic completed his hat trick with a remarkably skillful run through the Panamanian defense inside the 18-yard box, taking three touches to finesse three defenders and slot a shot past the goalkeeper.



After missing Sunday’s match on one-game suspensions due to yellow card accumulation, defender DeAndre Yedlin and forward Tim Weah are once again available for selection at Costa Rica.


Defender Shaq Moore was added to the roster before the USA-Panama game once Yedlin was ruled out. The right back impressed in his return to the USMNT, going the full 90 in the 5-1 victory.


Prior to the start of the window, defender George Bello was added to the squad to replace injured defender Sergiño Dest. Forward Brenden Aaronson was also ruled out of the roster after suffering an injury training with his club.



After Aaron Long and Erik Palmer-Brown made their World Cup qualifying debuts at Mexico, a record-tying 29 players have made their first WCQ appearance this cycle. The 29 debutants tie the 1998 cycle, which saw several debuts as the USMNT didn’t need to qualify for the United States-hosted 1994 FIFA World Cup. A total of 38 players have been used through the first 12 matches, tied for the second-most in one cycle. Forty-three players were used in the 18-game 2010 cycle, which included two preliminary round matches.


Sporting one of the world’s youngest player pools for this World Cup qualifying cycle, the USMNT has gained loads of experience since the Octagonal kicked off in September. Head coach Gregg Berhalter has twice fielded line-ups that were the USA’s youngest-ever in World Cup qualifying. Of the 26 players on the March roster, 17 return from January/February World Cup qualifying. Eight players have double-digit WCQ caps: Christian Pulisic (22), Kellyn Acosta (18), DeAndre Yedlin (18), Tyler Adams (12), Paul Arriola (12), Antonee Robinson (12), Jordan Morris (10) and Miles Robinson (10).



World Cup Qualifying in the Concacaf region is a gauntlet, and history shows that qualification usually comes down to the final matches of the competition. While the current format features 14 matches and eight teams, qualifying previously consisted of 10 matches and six teams. In five previous successful World Cup qualifying cycles, the USA didn’t clinch until Matchday 9 or 10 twice, Matchday 8 twice and Matchday 7 once.



After some time away from the USMNT, four players earned long-awaited returns to the field for the USA and have made their presence known. Defenders Aaron Long and Erik Palmer-Brown earned their first World Cup qualifying caps vs. Mexico in their first WCQ call-ups. Long had been recovering from a ruptured Achilles suffered last May, training individually with the USA in November before joining the squad for December and the January pre-qualifying training camp. The New York Red Bulls center back has captained the team five times – third-most among the 88 players that have earned caps during the Berhalter era. Palmer-Brown is back in camp for the first time since the USA’s March 2021 friendlies vs. Jamaica and Northern Ireland and Thursday at Mexico marked his first cap under Berhalter.


In addition to forward Gio Reyna’s return to the pitch for the first time since September vs. Mexico, forward Jordan Pefok’s appearance at Mexico was his first appearance since Sept. 6 vs. Canada. Goalkeeper Ethan Horvath’s March call-up also marked his first since the September international window.



The USA topped Costa Rica 2-1 when the teams met on home soil in Columbus, Ohio on Oct. 13. Despite conceding in the first minute during a frenzied start to the match, the USA rallied as defender Sergiño Dest scored a spectacular goal in the 25th. A hard-hit shot from forward Tim Weah in the 66th resulted in the game-winning own goal in front of a raucous, sell-out crowd at the new Field in C-Bus as the USA improved to 9-1-3 all-time in the Ohio capital. The USA’s starting line-up vs. Costa Rica was its youngest in any official competition at 22 years, 61 days.


Los Ticos return home to close out World Cup qualifying after two straight wins to start the window and keep their hopes for a direct ticket to Qatar alive. Costa Rica kicked off March with a 1-0 win vs. Octagonal-leading Canada. While Canada played down a man for 56 minutes, Celso Borges netted in first-half stoppage time to give Costa Rica a 1-0 lead it would not relinquish. Traveling to face already-eliminated El Salvador on the weekend, the Central American squads traded goals after Costa Rica’s Anthony Contreras opened the scoring in the 30th, but Los Ticos once again finished the first half strong with a goal from Joel Campbell in stoppage time for a 2-1 victory.




  • Christian Pulisic's hat trick on Sunday took his career total in WCQ to 12 goals, tying him with Eddie Johnson for fourth on the USMNT's all-time WCQ scoring list.
  • Ten of Pulisic's 12 WCQ goals have occurred during the Final Round of qualifying, tying him for third across the region since the 1998 cycle. With one match left in the 2022 Octagonal, he trails only Carlos Pavon (12 goals in 18 Final Round matches; Honduras), Jozy Altidore (11 goals in 28 Final Round matches; USA) and Paulo Wanchope (11 goals in 20 Final Round matches; Costa Rica).
  • It also raised his overall career total to 21 goals, tying him with Bruce Murray for seventh on the all-time scoring list. With 47 caps to his name, Pulisic sits just three goals back of Joe-Max Moore (24 goals in 100 USMNT caps) for sixth on the USMNT scoring list.
  • Pulisic’s hat trick took him to five goals during 2022 qualification, putting him in a tie for second in the Octagonal with Canada’s Jonathan David. Canada forward Cyle Larin sits atop the Octagonal goal scoring list with six.
  • Defender Antonee Robinson logged his second and third WCQ assists vs. Panama, tying him with forward Ricardo Pepi for the team lead during this qualifying cycle.
  • Tyler Adams and Antonee Robinson earned their 12th WCQ caps vs. Panama, jointly moving into a tie for the team lead during the 2022 qualifying cycle.
  • Players represent clubs in 10 different countries: USA (10), England (4), Germany (4), France (2), Spain (2), Italy (1), Netherlands (1), Portugal (1), Scotland (1) and Switzerland (1).
  • Seventeen players were part of the January/February World Cup Qualifying roster.
  • Thirteen players are age 24 and younger: Erik Palmer-Brown and A. Robinson (24); Adams, Reggie Cannon and Christian Pulisic (23); Tim Weah (22); Jesús Ferreira and James Sands (21); George Bello (20); Gianluca Busio, Yunus Musah, Ricardo Pepi and Gio Reyna (19).
  • Goalkeepers Ethan Horvath and Sean Johnson are the two players seeking their first World Cup Qualifying caps.
  • Three players have registered goals against Costa Rica: Paul Arriola (Feb. 2, 2019) plus Reggie Cannon and Gio Reyna (both June 9, 2021).


  • The USA is 19-16-6 all-time against Costa Rica and 0-10-2 on the road.
  • The U.S. is 6-11-2 vs. Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying. The USMNT has the chance to make history on Wednesday as the USA has never won in Costa Rica during World Cup qualifying, going 0-9-1 The only result came in a 1-1 draw in 1985.
  • The only U.S. result came four years before goalkeeper Sean Johnson – the eldest player on the current U.S. roster – was born.
  • The USMNT faced Costa Rica in one of its most memorable home matches ever- the Snow Clasico in Commerce City, Colo. on March 22, 2013. Playing during a snowstorm in the Rocky Mountains, Clint Dempsey scored the USA’s lone goal for a 1-0 win.
  • The USA eliminated Costa Rica from contention to qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa with a 2-2 draw in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 10, 2009.


GOALKEEPERS (3): Esteban Alvarado (Herediano; 22/0), Keylor Navas (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA; 100/0), Leonel Moreira (Alajuelense; 22/0)

DEFENDERS (8): Ricardo Blanco (Saprissa; 14/0), Francisco Calvo (San Jose Earthquakes/USA; 67/7), Daniel Chacon (Cartagines; 0/0), Keysher Fuller (Herediano; 22/2), Ronald Matarrita (FC Cincinnati/USA; 49/3), Bryan Oviedo (Copenhagen/DEN; 67/2), Juan Pablo Vargas (Millonarios/COL; 4/0), Kendall Watson (Saprissa; 52/6)

MIDFIELDERS (11): Jewison Bennette (Herediano; 3/0), Celso Borges (Alajuelense; 145/24), Orlando Galo (Herediano; 4/0), Randall Leal (Nashville SC/USA; 26/0), Douglas Lopez (Santos de Guapiles; 0/0), Alonso Martinez (Lommel/BEL; 6/0), Bryan Ruiz (Alajuelense; 137/28), Aaron Suarez (Alajuelense; 2/0), Justin Salas (Grecia; 1/0), Yeltsin Tejeda (Herediano; 64/0), Gerson Torres (Herediano; 5/1)

FORWARDS (3): Joel Campbell (Monterrey/MEX; 109/21), Jose Guillermo Ortiz (Herediano; 20/3), Johan Venegas (Alajuelense; 72/11)


  • Central America’s most successful team, Costa Rica has played in five FIFA World Cups, including four of the last five. Los Ticos made waves at Brazil 2014 by reaching the quarterfinals before falling in a penalty shootout to the Netherlands. At Russia 2018, Costa Rica finished fourth in its group, going 0-2-1.
  • Alongside the U.S. and Mexico, Costa Rica is one of three teams to participate in every Final Round of World Cup qualifying since 1998. Los Ticos never finished worse than fourth in six editions of the Hexagonal.
  • Seventeen of Costa Rica’s 25 players compete domestically, including seven at Herediano and five at Alajuelense, the two clubs to never have been relegated from Costa Rica’s first division.
  • Abroad, Los Ticos ply their trade in the United States (three), Belgium, Colombia, Denmark, France and Mexico (one each).
  • Midfielder Randall Leal is teammates with U.S. defender Walker ZImmerman at Nashville SC.
  • Midfielder Celso Borges’ 145 caps lead Costa Rica. Los Ticos have four players rostered with at least 100 appearances.
  • Midfielder Bryan Ruiz is the team’s top scorer with 28 career international goals. Eight players have scored for Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying: Borges, Joel Campbell, Ruiz (two each), Anthony Contreras, Oscar Duarte, Keysher Fuller, Jimmy Marin and Gerson Torres (one each).
  • After a slow start to World Cup qualifying, Costa Rica is undefeated in its last six Octagonal matches dating back to the November window. In that time, Los Ticos have gone 5-0-1, conceding just two goals.
  • Los Ticos’ 11 goals scored thus far in World Cup qualifying are the lowest of the four Octagonal teams still alive for a Qatar berth. They’ve scored more than one goal in just three of 13 qualifiers thus far. 
  • Head coach Luis Fernando Suarez took charge of the team following its June loss to the USMNT in Utah. The Colombian brings 22 years of coaching experience and has led two different national teams to the FIFA World Cup: Ecuador in 2006 and Honduras in 2010.
  • Costa Rica qualified for the final round of Concacaf World Cup qualifying as the third-ranked team in the region, claiming one of five automatic berths in the Octagon.