With a chance to put a nightmarish qualification behind them and directly qualify for the 2018 World Cup, the United States instead conceded two first-half goals to Trinidad and Tobago and dropped a 2-1 decision in Couva, Trinidad and Tobago, forcing them out of the third spot in CONCACAF and knocking them out of the World Cup when Panama and Honduras won their final matches.
It’s the first time since 1986 that the United States will not participate in the World Cup. The defeat to Trinidad and Tobago snaps a streak of seven straight trips to the World Cup, a streak that began in 1989 in Trinidad and Tobago.
This time, an own goal from the United States and a wonderstrike from Alvin Jones over the head of Tim Howard made the difference, as the U.S. fell behind 2-0 to an already eliminated T&T side playing for nothing but national pride. The Soca Warriors entered the match on three points and were locked into last place in the final round of CONCACAF regardless of what they did against the U.S.
But T&T was the more aggressive side and played like the team with something on the line. Christian Pulisic had the only goal for the United States, scoring two minutes into the second half. The USMNT was set to survive as the third team with Panama and Honduras both trailing in their matches. However, Honduras pulled ahead of Mexico for a 3-2 win to leapfrog the United States for third place and the final automatic spot.
Panama then followed with a goal in the 88th minute to beat Costa Rica, knocking the U.S. to fifth and out of the World Cup. Roman Torres of the Seattle Sounders struck for the goal, sending his nation to the World Cup at the USMNT’s expense.
Panama qualified for the World Cup for the first time, while Honduras will face Australia in a playoff for one of the final six spots in the World Cup.
For the United States, it’s going to be a long wait until their next competitive match. The World Cup will take place in June, but the U.S. will be limited to playing friendly matches and answering a lot of questions after suffering their biggest embarrassment on the World Soccer stage in 31 years.