The final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying continues Wednesday, with the U.S. national team hosting Trinidad & Tobago in a crucial clash at Rentschler Field in Hartford, Conn. Kickoff is slated for 8 p.m. ET and the game will be broadcast live on ESPN2. Ten MLS players are among the 19 available to head coach Bruce Arena for the Red, White and Blue's sixth game of the hexagonal.
With four wins and one loss in their opening five matches, the U.S. find themselves in second place in the group with 12 points, just one point behind Mexico. Trinidad & Tobago are struggling in fifth, having earned just four points in their previous five matches.
If the U.S. tops Trinidad & Tobago and Costa Rica defeats Mexico on Wednesday, it is mathematically impossible for the USA to book a spot in next summer's FIFA World Cup on Wednesday night. However, with three points against Trinidad & Tobago, Arena's side can guarantee a finish no lower than fourth place, which would be good enough to enter a two-match playoff with an Asian side for the last spot in Germany.
Arena called in an even split of MLS players and European-based players for his initial 20-man team, but former Chicago Fire winger DaMarcus Beasley has been forced to stay at PSV Eindhoven in Holland, as he has not yet fully recovered from a hamstring injury. Heading up the domestic contingent is Los Angeles Galaxy forward Landon Donovan. The only player to appear in all 13 World Cup qualifying games for the U.S., Donovan has recorded seven goals and eight assists, notching at least one point in 12 of those matches.
Also available for the U.S. are two of the top three scorers in MLS, Jeff Cunningham (Colorado Rapids) and Taylor Twellman (New England Revolution). Cunningham received his first call-up to the U.S. team this year after posting an impressive 11 goals in 19 games, while Twellman has struck for 10 in 18.
Other MLS players include the following: Chris Albright (Galaxy), Chris Armas (Chicago Fire), Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City Wizards), Kevin Hartman (Galaxy), Santino Quaranta (D.C. United), Steve Ralston (Revolution), and Greg Vanney (FC Dallas).
Crossing the Atlantic for the match are nine experienced U.S. internationals, led by midfielder Claudio Reyna (Manchester City, England). With 106 appearances, Reyna is the most-capped player in the squad. He played all 90 minutes for City in their season-opening match against West Bromwich Albion last Saturday, a 0-0 draw.
The Trinidadians sport two MLS players on their roster, with the rest filing in from countries around the world. Avery John (New England Revolution) is a likely starter in defense for the Caribbean team, while Scott Sealy (Kansas City Wizards) could see time up front. Former Manchester United marksman Dwight Yorke has circumnavigated the globe for the match, making a grueling journey from Sydney FC in Australia.
Mexico will face a tough test in Costa Rica at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City (10 p.m. ET, live on Telemundo). The ticos, who currently sit in third place and trail Mexico by six points, are the only side that has ever beaten Mexico at Azteca in a World Cup qualifying match. Los Angeles Galaxy defender Michael Umana has been called into the Costa Rican side by technical director Alexandre Guimaraes.
Also on Wednesday, fourth-place Guatemala (four points) will host last-place Panama. FC Dallas striker Carlos Ruiz is expected to lead the attack for the chapines, but Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Guillermo Ramirez will miss the match through suspension.
A positive result for the U.S. national team against Trinidad & Tobago will set up a tense showdown with Mexico on Sept. 3 at Columbus Crew Stadium on Matchday Seven. First place in the hexagonal and a guaranteed at Germany 2006 could be on the line when the two powerhouses meet in just over two weeks time. That game is scheduled to kickoff at 7:30 p.m. ET and can be seen live on ESPN Classic and Telemundo. The game in Columbus is already a sellout, though seats are still available for Wednesday's tilt against Trinidad & Tobago in Hartford.
Jonathan Nierman is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.