Win and they're in. Anything else and ... well, it's complicated.
Heading into Tuesday's final match day of the CONCACAF qualifying tournament for next summer's World Cup, Mexico faces a series of possible outcomes that could either send it on to Brazil or send it home until qualifying begins for the 2018 tournament.
Here are the scenarios Mexico faces, from best to worst:
• If El Tri beats Costa Rica by at least two goals and winless Jamaica beats Honduras, Mexico would move past Honduras into third place and join the U.S. and Costa Rica as one of CONCACAF's three automatic qualifiers for Brazil.
• If Mexico plays Costa Rica to a draw or if Panama does not beat the U.S., Mexico will finish fourth in CONCACAF, advancing to a two-leg playoff with Oceania champion New Zealand next month with a World Cup berth at stake.
• If Mexico loses to Costa Rica and Panama beats the U.S., then El Tri is eliminated from the World Cup for the first time since 1990 and Panama moves on to play New Zealand.
For Mexican Coach Victor Manuel Vucetich, there's one way to make all that simple: beat Costa Rica.
"We still need to win the next game," he said.
That would be a challenge regardless of the circumstances. Although Mexico hasn't lost at Costa Rica in 21 years, it will be playing a team Tuesday that hasn't lost at home in four matches in the final round of qualifying, conceding just one goal.
"We have to give it our all to get the three points," Santos Laguna forward Oribe Peralta, who scored Mexico's first goal in last Friday's crucial win over Panama, told reporters. "We know that with one point we are in the playoff but we will go in with the intention of qualifying directly if we get the right result in Honduras. It's still possible but it doesn't depend on us."
Nor does the fate of Panama, which could also affect Mexico's chances. The Central Americans, needing a win and some help from Costa Rica to reach the World Cup for the first time in its history, will be playing a depleted U.S. team that has already clinched a berth in Brazil and has assured itself of finishing first in qualifying for the third time in as many cycles.
Perhaps as a result, the U.S. team traveled to Central America without captain and goalkeeper Tim Howard and defender Matt Besler. Six other American starters — Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan, Omar Gonzalez and Eddie Johnson — are out with injury, although Donovan and Gonzalez are both available for selection for the Galaxy's Major League Soccer match with Montreal on Wednesday.
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