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Mexico, U.S. secure World Cup spots

Mexico beats El Salvador to cap qualifying round

One CONCACAF power, Mexico, had arguably its worst national team in decades. The other had its most impressive collection of young starlets in U.S. Soccer history.

Mexico flustered its fans and FIFA throughout World Cup qualifying. The U.S. usually delighted its followers before a disappointing showing in the final World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica. Ultimately, though, they arrived at the same destination: Qatar.

They say it doesn’t matter how you get there as long as you arrive. Well, pack the bags to Qatar. The U.S., Mexico and Canada celebrated with aplomb Wednesday night after qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Mexico meets goal

“We achieved our objective,” embattled Mexico coach Tata Martino said. “Now we must prepare for the next one from tomorrow.”

Considering they missed the 2018 World Cup, the U.S. had every reason to celebrate despite the 2-0 loss to Costa Rica.

“It’s definitely been a rollercoaster,” U.S. star Christian Pulisic told CBS Sports. “It’s never ever easy to come down and play in these CONCACAF countries.  We battled through most of it. At the end of the day we’re in the Top 3 and we’re going to the World Cup, so we should be proud.”

Mexico has qualified for 17 FIFA World Cups and the last eight in a row. El Tri was ineligible for the 1990 World Cup because of FIFA sanctions they received for using over-aged players in a youth tournament.

Mexico and Canada finished tied atop CONCACAF’s Octagonal round standing with 28 points, but Canada finished first on goal differential. 

Costa Rica continues home dominance

The U.S., which hasn’t secured a qualifying point in Costa Rica since 1985, finished tied for third with Los Ticos. Both had 25 points. The U.S. claimed the third and final qualifying spot based on goal differential. 

The future appears bright for U.S. Soccer. Pulisic, 23, Gio Reyna, 19, and Ricardo Pepi, 19, are just three of the promising young stars on the American roster. 

Coach Gregg Berhalter’s starting lineups averaged 23 years, 302 days during the Octagonal round, easily the youngest average for a qualifying cycle in U.S. Soccer history. 

With those kids, the U.S. gained four points against its bitter rival Mexico in World Cup qualifying. They picked up three at home with a 2-0 victory and one point in a tie at Azteca Stadium last week. 

The U.S. is on a four-game undefeated streak in games against El Tri, winning a World Cup qualifier and two regional tournament finals in that span. ‘

Costa Rica awaits New Zealand

Los Ticos needed to beat the U.S. by six goals to overcome the Americans’ goal differential advantage. 

Los Ticos must face New Zealand in a one-game playoff in Doha, Qatar for a spot in the 2022 World Cup. Costa Rica should be favored to win that game, especially if they repeat the form they showed Wednesday.

The Costa Rica-New Zealand match will be held on June 13 or June 14.

There’s plenty of work ahead for the CONCACAF giants. Now the difficult part begins heading into the World Cup in November. FIFA will hold the World Cup draw on Friday.

“We need continue working,” Martino said, “to regain our level and show a good game plan.”

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