The United States may have 80 times more people than Panama, but the countries have an equal chance of moving closer to a place in next year’s World Cup when they meet Friday night at Orlando, Florida.

With the final two rounds of matches to play in the next few days, Mexico already has claimed one of the three automatic berths from the CONCACAF region – North and Central America, and the Caribbean.

Costa Rica is on the verge of clinching the second.

The other automatic place at next year’s World Cup in Russia probably will go to Panama or the United States, although Honduras also has a chance.

The United States, with its population of about 320 million –compared to Panama’s 4 million – is trying to reach the World Cup for the eighth straight time. Panama is seeking its first appearance.

The fourth-place team also could advance if it wins a playoff next month against Syria or Australia.

Here’s a look at each contending country’s prospects. Trinidad and Tobago has been eliminated.

MEXICO: Mexico faces Trinidad and Tobago on Friday, then wraps up Tuesday with fifth-place Honduras. Despite the opposition, Colombia-born coach Juan Carlos Osorio has called up his top players. Mexico is seeking to stay unbeaten and perhaps be a seeded team in Russia.

“This team is very dedicated,” winger Hirving Lozano said. “Our objective is to finish first.”

Mexico leads the standings with 18 points.

COSTA RICA: The Ticos have 15 points and are home against Honduras on Friday, then finish at Panama.

Costa Rica is in if it wins or draws with Honduras. It can also advance – even if it loses – depending on the result of the United States-Panama match.

“We have to keep doing what we’ve been doing. No changes,” midfielder Christian Bolanos said. “That’s given us results. The best way would be to qualify at home.”

PANAMA: Panama has 10 points in third place and can get an automatic berth by winning its last two matches against the Americans and Costa Rica. Panama even could qualify Friday if it beats the United States and fifth-place Honduras loses to Costa Rica on the same day. But Panama never has managed a win or draw in qualifying matches in the United States.

UNITED STATES: The Americans have nine points and will be looking for victories in the last two games to secure an automatic berth. The Americans finish Tuesday at eliminated Trinidad and Tobago, giving them a slightly easier path than Panama.

HONDURAS: Honduras also has nine points. But it has a -7 goal difference, which is the first tiebreaker. Panama is +2 and the United States is +1. Honduras plays Friday at Costa Rica and wraps up Tuesday at home against Mexico.


Alex Morgan apologized on social media for an incident at Disney World over the weekend.

Morgan, a star for the World Cup-winning U.S. national team who also plays for the Orlando Pride, was among three soccer players kicked out of an Epcot park restaurant Sunday. Authorities said the players were verbally aggressive with park security and other guests.

Two MLS players, Donald Toia and Giles Barnes of Orlando City SC, also were ejected. A sheriff’s report said the group began arguing with other guests and workers after Barnes cut in line at the United Kingdom Pavilion pub.

“I will learn from this (and) make sure it does not happen again,” Morgan posted.