US, Panama clash for World Cup spot
The United States may have a population that's 80 times the size of Panama's, but the two countries have an equal chance of moving closer to a place in next year's World Cup when they meet tomorrow in Orlando, Florida.
With two rounds of matches to play in the next few days, Mexico have already claimed one of three automatic berths from the CONCACAF region North and Central American and the Caribbean.
Costa Rica are on the verge of clinching the second.
The other automatic place at next year's World Cup in Russia will probably go to either Panama or the United States, although Honduras also have a chance.
The United States, with its population of about 320 million - compared to Panama's four million, are trying to reach the World Cup for the eighth straight time. Panama are seeking their first appearance on football's biggest stage.
The fourth-place team could also advance in a play-off next month against either Syria or Australia.
Trinidad and Tobago are already eliminated.
Mexico face Trinidad and Tobago tomorrow and wrap up on Tuesday with fifth-place Honduras. Despite the opposition, Colombia-born coach Juan Carlos Osorio has called up his top players. Mexico are seeking to stay unbeaten and, perhaps, be a seeded team in Russia.
"This team is very dedicated," winger Hirving Lozano said. "Our objective is to finish first."
Mexico lead the standings with 18 points.
Costa Rica have 15 points and play at home against Honduras tomorrow, and then finish at Panama.
Costa Rica are in if they win or draw with Honduras. They can also advance even if they lose depending on the result of the United States-Panama match.
"We have to keep doing what we've been doing. No changes," midfielder Christian Bolanos said. "That's given us results. The best way would be to qualify at home."
Panama have 10 points in third place and can get an automatic berth by winning their last two matches against the Americans and Costa Rica. Panama could even qualify tomorrow if they beat the United States and fifth-place Honduras lose to Costa Rica on the same day. However, Panama have never managed a win or draw in qualifying matches in the United States.