The US men's national team continue their Concacaf World Cup Qualifying cycle on Thursday when hosting El Salvador at the Columbus Crew's Lower.com Field.

It marks the first of three winter-window matches, each one vital in determining whether the USMNT can clinch a Qatar 2022 spot. As it stands, Gregg Berhalter's squad sits second in the Octagonal table with 15 points from eight matches (the top three finishers clinch an automatic World Cup berth, while fourth place heads to an inter-continental playoff).

Here's everything you need to know ahead of Thursday's game.

When

  • Thursday, January 27 | 7 pm ET

Where

  • Lower.com Field | Columbus, Ohio

How to watch and stream

  • ESPN2, UniMas, TUDN

United States

The USMNT have reached the stretch run while maintaining a WCQ spot in the top three. But the standings are a logjam, with Canada just ahead of the Yanks atop the table at 16 points, and both Mexico and Panama hot on their heels at 14 points apiece (El Tri currently hold the third-place spot on the goal differential tiebreaker).

Protecting home turf will be paramount in ensuring the US don't drop out of the automatic qualification places, and Berhalter's men are unbeaten in their last 18 matches on home soil.

The US will regain the services of two key contributors who missed the last match of November qualifying, as Atlanta United center back Miles Robinson (red card suspension) and Juventus midfielder Weston McKennie (yellow card accumulation) are both on the 28-man roster and available. Barcelona fullback Sergino Dest is also back in the fold after missing the previous window due to injury.

Columbus Crew product and Manchester City goalkeeper Zack Steffen is dealing with back soreness ahead of the matchup, meaning New England Revolution backstop Matt Turner could potentially get the start in goal.

The looming storyline, though, is wintry weather conditions for this rare January qualifier.

El Salvador

El Salvador currently hold the No. 7 spot on the Octagonal table with six points through eight matches, so Hugo Perez's group have ample ground to cover to rejoin the qualification mix.

They'll be the road underdog, but they showed they're capable of giving the USMNT a hard-fought game when battling to a scoreless draw at Estadio Cuscatlán back in September. They also have nothing to lose, which can always present a dangerous opponent.

In terms of MLS representation, El Salvador feature Seattle Sounders FC defender Alex Roldan, who has played extensively as an attacking midfielder at the international level, as well as former Toronto FC defender and MLS free agent Eriq Zavaleta.