After one round of qualifying in the CONCACAF World Cup qualification tournament, Mexico, the USA, and Canada lead the way, but the heat will be on all three teams to keep their fans happy as we go into the second installment of qualifying games, with only three teams guaranteed automatic qualification. For the USA, round two will pit them against Jamaica, Costa Rica, and Panama.
The soccer betting odds are up for the first of the three qualifiers, and as expected, USMNT is big favorites against Jamaica. Berhalter’s team is a short price to beat the Reggae Boyz, although there’s some disagreement between the sportsbooks on how long Jamaica should be here, with BetUS notably more bullish than their rivals about USMNT’s chances.
Failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup put the whole USMNT hierarchy as well as the nation’s players under intense pressure to reach the global showpiece event in 2022. Winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup and the CONCACAF Nations League has laid a foundation for Gregg Berhalter and his team, but they’ve got off to a slow start in the one that matters, being held to draws by El Salvador and Canada before finally picking up a win against Honduras in their third qualifying game.
This is, on paper at least, one of the easiest fixtures that Berrhalter and his team will face in the qualifying tournament. Jamaica has occasionally punched above their weight, but they have only once qualified for the World Cup and their chances of making the tournament in Qatar next year have not been helped by the fact that they’ve picked up only one point from their first three games.
Still, it is worth noting that two of those games were on the road, and the first was the toughest of all, in Mexico, yet Theodore Whitmore’s side gave Mexico a good fight, holding them at 1-1 until Martin claimed a winner for the home side in the 89th minute. Three days later they were beaten 3-0 in Kingston by Panama, although they were unable to benefit from the support of a home crowd due to COVID-19 protocols for that game and they rounded off the qualifiers with a solid 1-1 draw in Costa Rica.
USMNT have won 18 of their 26 matches against Jamaica, including two this season: a 4-1 friendly win and a 1-0 victory in the CONCACAF Gold Cup quarter-finals, and they will be confident of getting a crucial win but given their two stubborn away performances so far, Jamaica will not be pushovers and betting on Under 2.5 goals might be a safer option than backing the USA for the win.
The USA has a great record against Panama, winning 17 of their 23 meetings, including each of their last four, the latest being a 6-2 friendly victory in November 2020. But there is no doubt that this is likely to be the toughest of the USMNT’s fixtures in this qualifying round.
Panama, after all, played in the last World Cup, edging the last qualifying spot ahead of Honduras and the fifth-placed USMNT. And since head coach Thomas Christiansen took over in July 2020, they are undefeated on home soil. In fact, they’ve only lost 2 of their 12 competitive fixtures with Christiansen at the helm, and they’ve been a tough nut to crack so far in World Cup qualification. Their home draw with Costa Rica was followed by a convincing 3-0 win in Jamaica and a creditable 1-1 draw with Mexico.
This is exactly the type of test that Berrhalter will need his squad to come through, but it will be a tough assignment in Panama City and this looks like the type of game where caution could prevail as both teams expect to be in the automatic qualification shake-up so the draw looks a good way to go here.
The US team will finish up with another home game, but this one looks far from straightforward. Three games in six days is a severe examination of squad depth and although USMNT are not at full strength, they can call on deeper resources to call upon than their opponents.
But they cannot afford to underestimate these opponents. Costa Rica have qualified for five of the last eight World Cups and famously made it to the quarter-finals in 2014. They also have a strong head-to-head record against the USA, having won 16 to the USMNT’s 18.
They were well beaten by the USA in June, but that was a friendly that came just over a week after Luis Fernando Suarez took over as head coach. Costa Rica has tightened up noticeably since that defeat, and their last four games have produced just three goals, including draws with El Salvador, Panama, and Jamaica and a narrow defeat to Mexico.
That sort of form won’t make it easy to qualify automatically but it does mean that Costa Rica could be stubborn opponents and are sure to aim for the draw in Columbus. As with the Jamaica game, betting low on the Total Goals markets looks like the best approach for this one.
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