The final rounds of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup take place on Oct. 6 and 10, with only one of the 3.5 available places currently confirmed after Mexico secured safe passage in September.
Already qualified: Mexico
Places to be decided: 2 automatic, 1 intercontinental playoff
Here, we take a look at which nations can still make it to Russia, and how they can get there.
The top three teams qualify directly, with the nation that finishes in fifth facing a two-legged playoff against either Australia or Syria for a place at the finals.
Mexico are through, Costa Rica are all-but through and means it realistically comes down to a fight between Panama, United States and Honduras for the last automatic place and the playoff berth.
1. Mexico, 18 points (h-Trinidad & Tobago, a-Honduras)
Mexico qualified with plenty in hand, but they could have a major say in who joins them when they go to Honduras on the final day.
2. Costa Rica, 15 (h-Honduras, a-Panama)
With a six-point advantage over United States and Honduras, Costa Rica’s place is all but assured. They will be through without kicking a ball if USA and Panama draw in Orlando in the first match to kickoff on Oct. 6, otherwise a point at home to Honduras will see the job done that day.
3. Panama, 10 (a-United States, h-Costa Rica)
Panama may going into the final games in an automatic place, but they have two very difficult games to navigate through. They are probably going to have to take at least a point away to USA to retain realistic hopes of finishing third, before facing what should be an already-qualified Costa Rica in their final match. But they do know that two wins definitely send them to Russia.
4. United States, 9 (h-Panama, a-Trinidad & Tobago)
It’s been a stuttering campaign for United States, but they go into the final rounds knowing they do not have to play one of the region’s so-called heavyweights. With Honduras’ goal difference being so inferior, they know that two wins will take them directly to Russia, and it might be that four points is enough if they can beat Panama.
5. Honduras, 9 (a-Costa Rica, h-Mexico)
Honduras are eight goals worse off than United States in the head to head differential, and that means they are going to have to better United States’ results to get above them. With Costa Rica and Mexico yet to play, that looks a tall order — on paper at least. Edging in front of Panama for the playoffs could be more realistic, but again goal difference means they are going to have to outperform their rivals, but by two points.
6. Trinidad & Tobago, 3 (a-Mexico, h-United States)
A place in the playoffs is the best Trinidad & Tobago can cling on to, but that requires United States and Honduras losing both their games and huge goal difference swing of 12 with the United States.
Dale Johnson has been an editor and journalist at ESPN for 18 years. You can follow him on Twitter @dalejohnsonESPN.