US not in driver's seat, but they are riding shotgun

I don't look too far outside my window much - not since Simon Le Bon told me it was a world of dread and fear. But let's look at the CONCACAF standings for a second.

World Cup Qualifying - CONCACAF Fourth Round
What it will look like Wednesday, if Honduras wins:
And, if there's a draw between Honduras and Salvador:

...yeah, I'm picking Mexico to beat T&T in Azteca. It came to me in a shimmering, mystical vision.

After Wednesday's games, here's what will be in store:

They sure look great, don't they? Well, their next couple of games are going to be tough, and they might end up sweating in October if things go wrong. Ugly road game in Honduras in August, and their September double-dip has them hosting Mexico then going to San Salvador. Their October double-dip has them hosting notorious spoiler Trinidad, then going to the United States for a game that could mean everything. Projected finish: 20 points.

The United States - making it look difficult since 1916. The August game in Tenochtitlan should be even more interesting than usual. Sure, the US looks bad, but Mexico looks horrible. Let's assume Mexico finagles a win (or blows us clean out of the country, which is entirely possible) - then things get mugly. The September double has Salvador in Sandy, then a trip to Trinidad. It would be highly advisable for the United States to obtain all six points from those games. We don't really particularly want to need more than one point out of Honduras on the road and Costa Rica to close it out. If it does come down to the last game, I think the United States is good enough to win. But I think lots of things. Projected finish: 17 points.

Okay, so Honduras starts the utterly useless Carlos Pavon. Doesn't mean the rest of them are bad. (Carlo Costly, by the way, is currently the property of a Polish team called GKS Bełchatów, after Birmingham City said "thanks but no thanks," presumably in an impenetrable Brummie accent. Someone in MLS ought to be looking at a Costly transfer. I'm hilarious.) Honduras-Salvador on Wednesday will change the course of the Hexagonal. Maybe the course of mankind. After that, they host Costa Rica, which will also change the course of human history. The September double starts with the third consecutive home game, to Trinidad. And then they get to fight the Smog Monster, so if the winning streak isn't done by then it soon will be. In October, they will have games that will change the course of the universe - hosting Uncle Sam, then risking another Soccer War against their good friends El Salvador. And you think we're sweating Bob Bradley qualifying. Projected finish: 14 points and a playoff with, I dunno, Uruguay?

Tell me you don't love these guys. They didn't "cramp" against Mexico, either - they learned their lesson. That might be as good as they're going to get, though, and I'll believe they can take it on the road when I see it. But they've gone from patsy to menace, led by...Eliseo Quintanilla? Maybe the US should call up Antonio Otero. Anyway, if they are going to win on the road, they'll do so in August in Port of Spain. September has them visiting Utah then hosting Costa Rica, October they will face revenge in Mexico City before the showdown at home to Honduras. Projected finish: 12 points, and, sadly, out.

Four out the next five are at home. While it would be delightful if they lost or tied most of those - starting on Wednesday - I think we need to hand them twelve points off the bat. Where it might go wrong for them if on the last day of the Hex, they need to get a point in Trinidad, and either Honduras or El Salvador can pass them with a win that day. Projected finish: 15 points, and is there a team on the planet not coached by Bob Bradley that deserves it less?

Can you just imagine if this had been Guatemala instead of Trinidad? How ugly would this Hex look right now? God, that was a close one. If they win all three of their remaining home games, that rockets them up to...eleven points total. Barring a five or six game winning streak, these guys are only here to make the rest of us miserable. Which they very well might. Mexico bungled the equivalent fixture in October 2005, which is why I'm going to give Trinidad three points on the last day of the Hex. (Yes, Mexico had already qualified on that day...but this year's Mexico is way, way worse. Barring high noon at the Azteca, they can lose anywhere, any time, to anyone.) As we've seen, depending on how well Salvador or Honduras have positioned themselves (or how badly Costa Rica or the United States have fallen off), Trinidad could put Mexico in real trouble. The Warriors are not going back to the World Cup, but they'll have someone's scalp before it's over.

Unless and until the United States loses a home game, World Cup qualifying is pretty much assured. The real question is how well a team that stumbles and farts around in qualifying does against the world's best.

Oh, hey, look, the Confederations Cup. Honestly, the United States needs to take this tournament very seriously, because Brazil and Italy on neutral ground tells us much more about us than Costa Rica on Saprissaturf.

Or we can concentrate on the Gold Cup. Just kidding.