Qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in CONCACAF will be a four-match sprint this September. The fifth round of qualifying, often called the Hexagonal or Hex, is in a home-and-away double round-robin format.
The top three soccer teams in the group will advance to the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The team that finishes in fourth place advances to an inter-confederation playoff against the fifth-place team from the AFC.
Currently, Mexico is in the best shape, leading the group with 14 points and the best goal differential at +7, and it’s also the only team in the group without a loss. Costa Rica is second at the moment with 11 points and a goal differential of +5.
The U.S. sits in third place for the last automatic qualifying spot with 8 points and a +3 goal differential. Panama is fourth with 7 points and a 0 goal differential. Honduras is fifth with 5 points and a -8 goal differential, and the team for Trinidad and Tobago is in sixth with just three points and a -7 goal differential.
Barring an epic collapse, Mexico should be in the next World Cup. El Tri plays three of its four final matches against the bottom three teams in the group.
Costa Rica doesn’t have an easy road left with games against the U.S., Mexico, Honduras and Panama. The Ticos play the U.S. in back-to-back games on Sept. 1 and Sept. 5, which will make for a tough stretch.
The U.S. made their journey to Russia a hard one with a slow start, but the team has rebounded after a coaching change. Besides the match at home against Costa Rica, Sam’s Army gets the bottom three teams in the group, with a trip to Honduras, a home game against Panama and a final road game against Trinidad and Tobago to end the qualifying round.
Panama and Honduras both have games against Mexico, Costa Rica and the U.S. left. Both squads also play Trinidad and Tobago. Whichever team steals a point or two could end up in the third or fourth spot.
Trinidad and Tobago will face a tough road to advance with just three points at this stage of group play. While the Soca Warriors aren’t eliminated from World Cup contention, there is zero room for error at this point.
This group could get wild with just three points separating first place from second, and second place and third. Just one point separates third place from fourth, and there’s only a two-point difference between fourth and fifth place.
Teams earn three points for a victory and one point for a draw with their goal differentials breaking ties. For example, if the U.S. beats Costa Rica on Sept. 1 and Honduras on Sept. 5, the squad will be in a solid second place with 14 points. That is, if Costa Rica doesn’t beat Mexico. Then, the teams would be tied on points with their goal differentials deciding second place.
The final two games of the qualifying round will be on Oct. 6 and Oct. 10. The 2018 World Cup begins June 14, 2018, and runs through July 15, 2018.