A spot in Qatar will be up for grabs on Wednesday as the USA battle Costa Rica at Estadio National de Costa Rica in World Cup 2022 qualifying.
To make it into the top three, Los Ticos will need a big win and some help, while the equation is much simpler for the Americans, who can advance to their 10th World Cup with just a single point.
It has been quite the resurgence for Costa Rica, who never threw in the towel despite a poor opening seven matches in the Octagon.
On Sunday, Luis Fernando Suarez saw his side hang back and defend once again for most of their encounter against El Salvador, but in the end, they got the job done, winning 2-1 and putting themselves in a solid position to keep the possibility of a third successive trip to the finals intact.
They come into their final game unbeaten in six straight qualifiers, five of which were victories, and at worst, Los Ticos will find themselves playing in an inter-confederation playoff, regardless of how this match ends up.
Costa Rica deserve a ton of credit for the way they came together during a brutal qualifying stretch to turn their campaign around before it was too late.
This side may lack creativity and quality in attack, though they make up for it with tremendous poise on the backline and intelligent positional play.
The US have won their last four meeting versus these Central Americans, however, Los Ticos have never lost a World Cup qualifier to the Yanks on home soil, outscoring them 22-7.
Many had written this team off, assuming their time had passed, but even though it has not always been impressive, Costa Rica are showing that they may still have another great run left.
With the weight of expectation on their shoulders, the United States put together perhaps their most impressive display in the Octagon to date, demolishing Panama 5-1 in front of a raucous crowd in Orlando.
The Yanks pressed the issue from the opening whistle on Sunday, putting the Panamanians on their heels with tremendous speed and precise passing.
It was the ideal scenario for the US, as they went into half time with a four-goal cushion, allowing them to rest some of their star players heading into this pivotal encounter.
While they are not officially in the World Cup just yet, Gregg Berhalter and his team come into this contest on Wednesday knowing that at worst they could drop into fourth, meaning that a trip to the finals would still be possible.
Even that scenario though seems like a stretch, as the Americans would have to lose by six or more goals for the Costa Ricans to overtake them on goal difference, while Mexico would need to gain at least a point versus El Salvador.
Stars and Stripes will come into this contest cautiously optimistic, perhaps because they were in a similar situation four years ago, needing a point from their final encounter, only to fall 2-1 to Trinidad and Tobago.
Joel Campbell scored his 23rd goal in a Costa Rican shirt on Sunday, which stood up as the game-winner, moving him into a tie for eighth all-time with Jorge Hernan Monge, and he can move into seventh alongside Walter Centeno should he find the back of the net on Wednesday.
Anthony Contreras notched his first international goal for Los Ticos last weekend, and Ian Lawrence made his first career appearance, replacing Bryan Oviedo.
Carlos Martinez also picked up his first cap, coming on for Keysher Fuller for the final 17 minutes against La Selecta.
Three Costa Rican internationals who were called up for this qualifying window currently play their club football in the United States.
Midfielder Randall Leal is a mainstay at Nashville SC, Ronald Matarrita features for FC Cincinnati, and Francisco Calvo has had a strong start to the season with the San Jose Earthquakes.
Christian Pulisic had quite the afternoon on Sunday, scoring a hat trick for the US in their emphatic victory over Panama, Paul Arriola picked up a goal and an assist, Antonee Robinson had two assists and Jesus Ferreira scored his first of the qualifying campaign.
Kellyn Acosta made his 50th appearance for the Americans last weekend, Gianluca Busio has a chance to hit double digits in caps on Wednesday and Jordan Morris played in his 45th match for the national team, replacing Tyler Adams in the final 20 minutes.
Shaquell Moore replaced DeAndre Yedlin in defence versus Panama, Luca de la Torre was the preferred choice in midfield, starting over Kellyn Acosta, while Paul Arriola and Ferreira began that match alongside Pulisic, with Ricardo Pepi and Tim Weah relegated to the bench.
Costa Rica possible starting lineup:
Navas; Chacon, Calvo, Vargas, Matarrita, Fuller; Martinez, Tejeda, Borges, Contreras; Campbell
USA possible starting lineup:
Horvath; Bello, Zimmerman, Palmer-Brown, Cannon; Musah, Adams, Busio; Pefok, Weah, Arriola
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