With three games scheduled in eight days in the current qualifying window, the United States has a chance to move into a commanding position to claim one of the region’s three automatic berths to the World Cup early in the final three-game window in March. (It was mathematically possible, though extremely unlikely, that the Americans could have claimed a World Cup place by next week if a complicated series of results broke their way.)
Through nine of the 14 qualifiers in the final round, the United States is in second place with 18 points, one point behind Canada, the surprise group leader; one ahead of the archrival Mexico; and four ahead of Panama.
Mexico, in contrast to the United States, endured quite a bit of drama on Thursday: It had to rally for a 2-1 victory against 10-man Jamaica in Kingston.
The United States can wrest control of the group, and its World Cup fate, if they can beat the Canadians — weakened by the absence of the Bayern Munich wing Alphonso Davies — on Sunday. The Americans then will face last-place Honduras on Wednesday in more frigid temperatures in St. Paul, Minn., hoping to make it three wins in a week.
“We’re in a good position,” the U.S. star Christian Pulisic said earlier this week, “and by the end of this window, we could be in a great position.”