The USMNT takes on Panama tonight on ESPN 2 in a pivotal World Cup qualifying match. ESPN’s pre-match coverage begins at 7 p.m. Eastern, while the match officially kicks off at 7:35 p.m. Eastern. Heading into the match, Panama sits in third in the hex with 10 points, while the USA is in fourth with nine points.
The top three teams clinch a 2018 World Cup qualifying birth. The fourth-place team will play in a playoff game against Asia’s fifth-place team with the winner clinching a spot. So far, Mexico is the only team in the hex to have clinched a spot for 2018.
Three of the last four USA-Panama matches have ended in a draw with another 2015 match requiring penalty kicks to decide the winner. The United States have been in a bit of a slump. They reached a draw with Honduras the last time out, and lost to Costa Rica in the match prior.
Panama is coming off a 3-0 win in September over Trinidad and Tobago. USMNT’s coach Bruce Arena understands the importance of the national team qualifying for the World Cup. Arena spoke with Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl on the World Cup’s importance.
“It’s very important [to make the World Cup],” Arena told Sports Illustrated. “We continue to grow the game in this country. I think the game in the United States is at its highest point in its history with a growing domestic league, a very competitive national team and a region that continues to grow as well. It’s important that we continue to qualify for World Cups.”
All this leads to the United States final qualifying match on Tuesday, October 10 against Trinidad & Tobago. The USMNT earning three points tonight would ease some of the pressure heading into Tuesday’s match.
Here’s a look at the starting lineups for the United States and Panama
United States & Panama Starting XI
Here is the starting XI for the USMNT according to US Soccer: 1-Tim Howard, 2-DeAndre Yedlin, 3-Omar Gonzalez, 4-Michael Bradley, 5-Matt Besler, 6-Darlington Nagbe, 9-Bobby Wood, 10-Christian Pulisic, 15-Jorge Villafaña 17-Jozy Altidore, 21-Paul Arriola