COUVA, Trinidad and Tobago — For the first time since 1986, the US Men’s National Team will be watching the World Cup from home.
Falling 2-1 to Trinidad and Tobago, the US fail to qualify for Russia 2018. An early own-goal from Omar Gonzalez set the tone for the defeat, before Alvin Jones doubled the Trinidad and Tobago lead on 37 minutes.
Despite a fightback, which included a goal straight after the half-time break from Christian Pulisic, American hearts were to be broken, with the defeat plunging the Americans into fifth place in the CONCACAF table.
Elsewhere, a hat-trick from Lionel Messi propelled Argentina — which had endured a poor run of results, putting qualification in doubt — into third in the South American qualifying table and an automatic spot.
In another upset, World Cup regulars Chile — the Copa America holders — lost out on goal difference to fifth-place Peru, who will face a playoff round against Oceania winners New Zealand.
The final round of qualifiers for the automatic places in CONCACAF also saw Panama put Costa Rica to the sword.
The Panamanians’ 2-1 victory saw them in third place and guaranteed them a debut World Cup appearance in Russia next year, alongside fellow regional qualifiers Costa Rica, who finished second, and Mexico, who topped the table.
In Europe, France and Portugal joined Germany, Serbia, Poland, England, Spain, Belgium and Iceland as automatic qualifiers for next year’s edition of the World Cup, while the remaining playoff spots were determined — group runners up Sweden, Greece and Switzerland joined Italy, Denmark, Croatia, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in the next round of qualifying.
Slovakia missed out on a playoff berth as the lowest-ranked runner-up.
In Asia, Australia’s veteran Tim Cahill sealed a 2-1 victory for the Socceroos and ended Syria’s dreams of a first-ever World Cup. Australia now face Honduras in an intercontinental play-off.