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United States faces near must-win World Cup qualifier at Honduras

Craig Burley and Herculez Gomez debate the validity of a variety of excuses used to justify U.S. defeats and shortcomings.

Although the United States remains likely to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, a loss at Honduras on Tuesday could lead to a considerably more difficult path to Russia.

A 2-0 loss at home to Costa Rica on Friday means the U.S. remains third in the Hexagonal, the final round of CONCACAF qualifying.

The top three teams will qualify automatically for the World Cup, while the fourth-place team will advance to a playoff against the fifth-place team in the Asia region.

The United States would be likely to qualify for the World Cup with a victory over Honduras but would be in trouble with a loss.

Mexico, atop the table, has already qualified, and Costa Rica remains in second place, six points ahead of the U.S.

According to FiveThirtyEight.com's Soccer Power Index (SPI), the U.S. currently has a 76 percent chance to qualify for the World Cup. Honduras, level on points but with a minus-7 goal differential, enters Tuesday's game in San Pedro Sula with only a 30 percent chance of reaching its third consecutive World Cup.

The U.S. has a 43 percent chance of defeating Honduras, according to FiveThirtyEight.com's Soccer Power Index (SPI).

Although the U.S. had won at least two away games in each of the past three World Cup qualifying cycles, it has not won one yet during the Hexagonal.

Its eight points through seven games stand as the fewest in team history at that stage. The only teams to qualify with eight or fewer points through seven games in the final round of qualifying are Trinidad & Tobago in 2006 and Mexico in 2014 -- and both qualified via the interconfederation playoff.

The U.S. has won six of the nine games between the two teams all-time, with one draw. Only once has the U.S. been defeated in a World Cup qualifier in Honduras, with that 2-1 loss occurring on Feb. 6, 2013.

The United States' only loss at Honduras in a World Cup qualifier happened in 2013.

The last meeting, in March, ended up significantly in the United States' favor. A hat trick from Clint Dempsey powered a 6-0 win in a qualifier in San Jose, California -- the third-largest margin of victory in U.S. World Cup qualifying history.

Dempsey, who has scored seven goals against Honduras -- more than any other opponent -- has 57 international goals and will again try to break his tie with Landon Donovan for the most in team history.

Honduras, which defeated Trinidad & Tobago on Friday, had won only once in its previous 11 games. It has not won consecutive games since a four-game winning streak ended in January.

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