The final stage of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying is more than halfway through, and just two jam-packed international windows are left before the qualifying slate is complete.
A quick check of the table through eight matches sees Mexico sitting third, occupying the final automatic qualifying spot. While that would be disappointing for the North American powerhouse, it would still do the job, and a closer look at the standings shows that it's still anyone's game.
Despite that, the current standing has manager Tata Martino under pressure, as losses to both the United States and Canada were early missed opportunities.
With six matches remaining, Mexico is just two points back of Canada in the top spot, a point behind the second-place United States, and even on points with fourth-place Panama. It's a logjam near the top. The top three spots all qualify directly for the World Cup, while fourth place advances to an intercontinental playoff against the Oceania winner. Therefore, it will be key to snatch a top-three spot and avoid that grueling and stressful last step.
|5. Costa Rica||9||8||2||3||3||6||7||-1|
|7. El Salvador||6||8||1||4||3||4||10||-6|
We analyze how Mexico can lock down a top-three finish and qualify directly for the World Cup, as the margins are extremely thin.
How many points to qualify for the World Cup?
If we’re using past regional World Cup qualifying cycles for historical comparisons, we need to use the points per game metric (PPG), since there were only 10 matches played in the CONCACAF final round in past years compared to the 14 on the calendar in the lead-up to Qatar 2022.
The top three spots (points per game in bold) qualified directly to each World Cup listed below. And beginning with the 2006 World Cup, the fourth-place team advanced to a play-in series against a nation from another region.
* = Current points per game based on 2022 CONCACAF qualifying standings after seven matches
What leaps out from the above table is that a 1.7 or 1.8 points-per-game figure (or greater) seems to be the magic number. Mexico is currently on a 1.75 points per game clip with six matches left to play, which leaves them right on the cliff's edge. As mentioned before, the margins are fine: Teams that fall in the 1.6 points-per-game territory have sweated it out during some of the past World Cup cycles.
Mexico was cruising, with four wins through its first six matches, but the losses to USA and Canada came in back-to-back games, starting a slight tumble to third. Mexico now has games against Jamaica and Costa Rica that present chances to turn the tide, but any slip against those two could leave El Tri in real trouble.
Mexico World Cup qualifying schedule
Depsite sitting third, Mexico is in an advantagous scheduling position. They have completed two matches with leaders Canada, and have just one match left against the United States, a home game. In fact, Mexico has four of its final six matches at home, and there are plenty of opportunities to pick up points against teams below El Tri in the table.
|Match||Date||Opponent / Result||Highlights||PPG|
|1||Thurs, Sept. 2, 2021||Mexico 2, Jamaica 1||Highlights||3.0|
|2||Sun, Sept. 5, 2021||Costa Rica 0, Mexico 1||Highlights||3.0|
|3||Wed, Sept. 8, 2021||Panama 1, Mexico 1||Highlights||2.3|
|4||Thurs, Oct. 7, 2021||Mexico 1, Canada 1||Highlights||2.0|
|5||Sun, Oct. 10, 2021||Mexico 3, Honduras 0||Highlights||2.2|
|6||Wed, Oct. 13, 2021||El Salvador 0, Mexico 2||Highlights||2.3|
|7||Fri, Nov. 12, 2021||USA 2, Mexico 0||Highlights||2.0|
|8||Tues, Nov. 16, 2021||Canada 2, Mexico 1||Highlights||1.8|
|9||Thurs, Jan. 27, 2022||Mexico @ Jamaica|
|10||Sun, Jan. 30, 2022||Mexico vs. Costa Rica|
|11||Wed, Feb. 2, 2022||Mexico vs. Panama|
|12||Thu, Mar. 24, 2022||Mexico vs. USA|
|13||Sun, Mar. 27, 2022||Mexico @ Honduras|
|14||Wed, Mar. 30, 2022||Mexico vs. El Salvador|
So what needs to realistically happen for Mexico to be comfortably in that 1.7-1.8 points-per-game range it needs to qualify without breaking a sweat?
We took a stab at projecting a series of upcoming results, taking a less favorable set of outcomes: dropped points at home to Costa Rica and the United States, plus a road draw with Jamaica. Both losses to this point came on the road against teams in good form.
Assuming El Tri can avoid any more losses, which is possible given the heavy home slate, and finish strong, that would put El Tri at a 1.86 points-per-game level, and presumably in a comfortable position.
Still, there is little room for error. A loss anywhere would mean Mexico would need to pick up points elsewhere, such as beating the United States or avoiding dropped points at Jamaica.
Mexico results projection (3W-2L-1D)
|Match||Date||Opponent / Result||PPG|
|9||Thursday Jan. 27, 2022||Jamaica 1, Mexico 1 (Draw)||1.7|
|10||Sunday Jan. 30, 2022||Mexico 2, Costa Rica 2 (Draw)||1.6|
|11||Wednesday Feb. 2, 2022||Mexico 2, Panama 0 (Win)||1.7|
|12||Thursday March 24, 2022||Mexico 0, USA 0 (Draw)||1.7|
|13||Sunday March 27, 2022||Honduras 1, Mexico 2 (Win)||1.8|
|14||Wednesday March 30, 2022||Mexico 3, El Salvador 0 (Win)||1.9|
CONCACAF standings tiebreakers
There's always a possibility that the CONCACAF standings are extra tight and that the Mexico is tied on points with one or more of the seven other nations in the qualifying standings. Currently, they sit level on points with Panama, but above them on tiebreakers, which are laid out in the following order:
- Goal difference in all group matches
- Most goals scored in all group matches
- Most points obtained from group matches between teams concerned
- Goal difference from group matches between teams concerned
- Most goals scored in group matches between teams concerned
- Goals scored away from home (if two teams are tied)
- Discipline points (based on yellow/red cards)
- Drawing of lots by FIFA
The Qatar World Cup will be played from Nov. 21 to Dec. 18, 2022.