A few months ago, I wrote about the received wisdom that “a point on the road is a good result” in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. With qualifying all but done and dusted, I thought I’d update those standings and see whether the received wisdom is true.
As a reminder, this math awards no points for a home win, minus-2 for a home draw, and minus-3 for a home loss; two points for an away win, zero points for an away draw, and minus-one for an away loss. This is based on the idea that the baseline is winning all your home games and drawing all your road games, and any points dropped from that baseline are a problem.
- The USA’s road record is the worst of the top four, especially against the four eliminated teams. Canada is 2-1-0, Mexico is 3-1-0, and Costa Rica is 2-2-0 in those games. The Americans are 1-2-1. A point on the road isn’t great when the opposition is bad.
- It is odd that Mexico has a better record on the road than at home.
- Not winning a home game in CONCACAF is difficult, but Honduras and (so far) Jamaica have managed it.
- The single biggest result of this qualifying campaign might be Mexico’s win at Costa Rica last September. If Los Ticos had even pulled out a home draw, they’d be level with Mexico going into the final day of qualifying. Instead, all Mexico needs is a draw at home with El Salvador.
- Second place is probably the USA’s loss at Panama, the only instance so far of a team in the top four losing to a team in the bottom four.
Staring at the standings now, it’s hard to believe we ever thought they’d come out differently. CONCACAF is just a wildly unfair region, with two heavyweights and a slowly-unfreezing northern giant. That Costa Rica has a chance to qualify at all is an accomplishment.