The Word Cup Qualifying campaign for the United States Men’s National Team has come to a devastating end with a 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago. This loss pushed the Americans into fifth place in the CONCACAF (The Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) Hexagonal standings and ensured that they would miss out on the World Cup next summer, their first absence from the tournament since 1986.
In a press conference after the loss in Couva, Trinidad and Tobago, team captain Michael Bradley said, “Incredibly disappointing (game), I feel like we’ve let ourselves down.”
This final game capped off a horrible World Cup qualifying run for the United States, in which they only managed 12 points, with 3 wins, 4 losses, and 3 draws. The poor start to the qualifying matches, including the US losing its first two qualifying matches, led to the firing of head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who had been with the team for five years. Shortly after, Bruce Arena, who has coached the US in previous World Cups, was hired to gain a World Cup berth.
In 10 final-round matches, the US conceded the first goal five times, and only managed to pick up one point from those five matches combined. And in the only two road games in which the US scored first, their opponents quickly responded, and the US settled for draws in both matches. This lack of intensity is a main component of what caused the US to miss out on the World Cup in Russia next summer.
The United States, which won the CONCACAF Gold Cup last summer, is not the only continental champion to miss out on Russia next summer. Chile, the COPA America winners in 2016, also failed to qualify, leaving big stars such as Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal out of the World Cup. The 2017 Africa Cup of Nations champions, Cameroon, also did not qualify for the World Cup.
As of now, 23 countries have qualified to compete at the World Cup in 2018 in Russia. The four countries that finished above the US in the Hexagonal standings, and will play in Russia next summer are: Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and Honduras. There are still nine spots open for countries to compete for going forward.