After the 1-0 victory over Trinidad & Tobago last night, the United States moves into the top spot in the CONCACAF region for 2010 World Cup qualifying.
While in a position to control their own destiny, Soccer America's Paul Kennedy outlines the scenarios that must play out for the US to secure a bid to South Africa.
Wednesday's Hexagonal results could not have been more favorable to the USA. Its 1-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago and El Salvador's 1-0 victory over Costa Rica -- on Rudis Corrales' goal in stoppage time -- moved the USA into first place in the Hexagonal and opened up a four-point lead over the sinking Ticos.
The results give the USA multiple ways to close the deal next month, but do pose a quandary for Coach Bob Bradley. Does he go for a win against Honduras on Oct. 10 in San Pedro Sula or save key players for the game four days later against Costa Rica in Washington when a win or tie will clinch a berth in the World Cup finals.
First things first, Wednesday's win clinched no worse than fourth place, but considering Argentina looks like it might finish fifth in South America, no Concacaf will want to finish fourth and risk a playoff date with the Argentines, with or without Diego Maradona in charge.
Here's what it take for the USA to clinch one of the top three spots in the Hexagonal, in order of ease ...
(1) Tie Costa Rica in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 14; or
(2) Beat Costa Rica in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 14; or
(3) Beat Honduras in San Pedro Sula on Oct. 10.