SOCCER

In bid to make World Cup, U.S. faces a huge game

Accustomed to qualifying for the World Cup with games to spare, United States players realize another slip could cause them to miss next year’s tournament, a circumstance that has swelled angst among a growing fan base.

“We need three points bad,” teenage midfielder Christian Pulisic said ahead of Friday night’s qualifier against Panama at Orlando, Florida. “We want to come out flying.”

Fourth in the North and Central American and Caribbean region with two games left, the Americans still can earn one of the region’s three automatic berths. They likely will need a win against the Panamanians followed by a victory or a draw Tuesday at Trinidad and Tobago.

Germany and England booked places at the World Cup in Russia next year, while Poland was made to wait for qualification in Europe despite thrashing Armenia 6-1 on Thursday.

Germany and England booked places at the World Cup in Russia next year. Defending champion Germany beat Northern Ireland 3-1 in Belfast, maintaining its perfect record with nine wins from nine games in Group C. England qualified in contrasting fashion, scraping past Slovenia 1-0 thanks to Harry Kane’s injury-time strike in a poor team performance at Wembley Stadium.

Omar al-Soma converted a late penalty to give Syria a 1-1 draw with Australia at Malacca, Malaysia, and keep its World Cup hopes alive. The Syrians, who have never qualified for a World Cup, are facing Australia in a two-leg Asian playoff for the right to go into a playoff with a team from CONCACAF, possibly the United States.

Argentina and Lionel Messi are on the verge of missing the World Cup for the first time since 1970, stumbling to a 0-0 draw against Peru before a capacity crowd in Buenos Aires.

GOLF

PGA: Brendan Steele opened his Safeway Open title defense with a 7-under 65 for a share of the lead with Tyler Duncan and Tom Hoge in the PGA Tour’s season opener at Napa, California.

Lucas Glover, Chez Reavie, Emiliano Grillo and Jamie Lovemark were two shots back at 67.

EUROPEAN: Paul Dunne and Nicolas Colsaerts each shot a 67 to lead the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship after the first round at St. Andrews, Scotland.

TENNIS

CHINA OPEN: Rafael Nadal earned his season-leading 58th victory by beating Karen Khachanov 6-3, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals at Beijing.

Nadal will next face John Isner, a big-serving American who defeated Leonardo Mayer, 6-0, 6-3.

JAPAN OPEN: Milos Raonic, a 2016 Wimbledon finalist, picked up another injury and was forced to retire from his second-round match at Tokyo.

SAILING

AMERICA’S CUP: The New York Yacht Club is returning to the competition after an absence of a decade and a half, following Emirates Team New Zealand’s stunning victory in June.

The NYYC announced it will challenge for the 36th America’s Cup to be held in early 2021, most likely off Auckland, New Zealand. Teams can file challenges beginning Jan. 1.

basketball

NBA: Joel Embiid of Philadelphia, who had knee surgery March 24, was cleared for five-on-five drills and practiced for the first time with the team.

He hasn’t played in a game since Jan. 27.