Last night in Columbus, the U.S. men's national team booked a spot in the world's most exclusive soccer party: The World Cup finals.
The Kansas City Star
The United States squad were the 8th team (of 10) to qualify for the 2014 Cup in Brazil so far: Brazil (host), Japan, Australia, Iran, South Korea, The Netherlands, Italy, United States, Costa Rica and Argentina.
That's pretty solid company to be in. That group features three former World Cup winners (Brazil, Italy and Argentina), one of the world's foremost powers (Netherlands) and two solid Asian nations (Japan, South Korea).
This is also also the 7th-straight World Cup for the United States (including the 1994 Cup that America hosted).
You want to put that into perspective? In that impressive 24-year run, a few very notable teams haven't qualified for the Cup: France (missed in '90), Portugal ('90, '98), Uruguay ('94, '98), England ('94), Sweden ('98), Russia ('98, '10), The Netherlands ('02), Turkey ('06, '10), Belgium ('06, '10) and Cameroon ('06).
England and The Netherlands have never had a stretch of seven-straight World Cups.
Granted some of those teams (the European ones especially) often have a more difficult qualifying path than teams from CONCACAF. But the point still stands. It's an exclusive tournament, and the United States are very much going.
So, party on.
Mexico, on the losing end of the "dos a cero" match last night, are now in a precarious position. El Tri have an even more impressive World Cup resume, having qualified for every Cup since 1982.*
*The '90 squad however was disqualified for using an overage player in a youth tournament.
Right now, Mexico are tied for fourth with Panama with only one more guaranteed spot left in the region. Costa Rica, like the U.S., is in the World Cup. Honduras holds a three-point lead over Panama and Mexico. The fourth-place team will face New Zealand in a two-leg qualifier.
This could get very interesting with two matches left. The key match? Mexico and Panama play each other on Oct. 11 in Mexico.
As for the U.S., all that's left for them is to play out the string, which includes the Oct. 11 match against Jamaica at Sporting Park. The last game is on the road on Oct. 15th in Panama.
What does that mean for us in KC? Well, that game will likely be nothing more than a glorified pep rally -- it's the last competitive game in the States before the World Cup. But I don't imagine any one will have a problem with the last lap of the United States' qualification parade taking place in KC. *
*Actually, finishing strong for the U.S. should help its FIFA ranking. Which, theoretically, should help improve its standing when it comes to World Cup seeding. Which, again theoretically, should help the U.S. avoid drawing a super-power in the group stage. But, we're getting ahead of ourselves. Just enjoy the ride for now.