The groupings for the semifinal round in CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia is a done deal. Twelve nations battled for six berths to the semifinal stage, and as those two-game series ended on Tuesday night, Sept., 8, there is a clear picture of which nations will battle on the semifinal field. The previous six seeded teams in the semifinals will now take on the newly qualified six nations.
In this semifinal round, 12 teams are slotted into three four-team groups; they will play a round robin format within their groups, a guarantee of six games each team, and the top two teams in each of the three groups will advance as the six finalists for last stage. Another round robin battle among the six finalists will ensue when each team plays 10 games in a home-and-away series to determine the three automatic qualifiers for World Cup Russia 2018; the fourth-place team will go into a playoff with a fourth-place finisher from the Asian Confederation for a fourth berth to the tournament.
Previously seeded in Group A were Mexico and Honduras, which are now joined by El Salvador and Canada. El Salvador overcame a gallant effort by the Patrick Kluivert-led Dutch country of Curacao to get a 2-0 aggregate score in their two games, while Canada had an easier time against Belize to win 4-1 on aggregate in that series.
In Group B, Costa Rica and Panama were awaiting Jamaica and Haiti in this group that many refer to as the group of death. After a scare in Jamaica when the Reggae Boyz lost to Nicaragua, 3-2, in the first game, the Jamaicans bounced back to take the second game in Nicaragua, 2-0, and carry off a 4-3 aggregate score; Haiti had a much easier time in beating Grenada, 6-1, on aggregate.
The last semifinal group, Group C, consists of previous seeds USA and Trinidad and Tobago, which will battle St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Guatemala. St. Vincent got a scare in Aruba, when the home team tied the aggregate score at 2-2, but a late goal from Tevin Slater saw the Vincentians through. Guatemala overcame a 1-0 deficit in Antigua and Barbuda and righted the situation at home with a 2-0 victory.
Semifinal play kicks off in November and one date has already been finalized as the USA will host St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Friday, Nov. 13, at Busch Stadium in St. Louis (MO). Other schedules are yet to be finalized.
Jamaica wins Cup
Team Jamaica defeated Team Haiti, 3-2, in a penalty kick shootout to win the 2015 Caribbean Cup title on Sunday, Sept. 6 at Jefferson Sports Complex in Flatlands, Brooklyn. After a close battle, the game end in a 1-1 draw; Javid Morris scored to put Jamaica ahead in the early stages, but Alfred Sonthonax’s penalty in the second half evened the score. Jamaica has won its eleventh Caribbean Cup title in the past 14 years. Team St. Kitts and Nevis beat Team St. Lucia, 1-0, on Alister Warner’s goal to take home the third place trophy.
In tournament awards, Haiti’s Sonthonax won the trophy for most goals (7); Jamaica’s Devon Haughton won the most outstanding goal keeper award and the MVP of the final was Jamaican midfielder Jermaine Hue.
In a limited schedule last weekend in MLS, New England Revolution defeated Orlando City FC, 3-0; Seattle Sounders topped Toronto FC, 2-1; Montreal Impact knocked off Chicago Fire, 4-3; Philadelphia Union over San Jose Earthquakes 2-1; and FC Dallas routed Columbus Crew, 3-0. There were two international friendlies on Tuesday, night, Sept., 8, and Brazil routed the USA, 4-1, at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro (MA); while on the same night in Houston (TX), Mexico led Argentina until Kun Aguero and Lionel Messi came up with late goals to tie Mexico, 2-2.