It doesn't get any bigger: U.S. can clinch berth to FIFA World Cup Germany 2006 with win at Crew Stadium on Sept. 3

COLUMBUS, Ohio - If you didn't think the World Cup Qualifying match between the U.S. and border-rival Mexico on September 3 at Crew Stadium could get any bigger, you were wrong.

The stakes just got bigger.

Former Crew star Brian McBride scored just 91 seconds into the game as the U.S. defeated Trinidad & Tobago, 1-0, last night in Connecticut and can now clinch a berth to FIFA World Cup Germany 2006 with a win over Mexico on September 3 at Crew Stadium. The World Cup berth would be the fifth consecutive for the U.S. squad and its eighth overall since the first World Cup in 1930. The 2006 tournament will be the 18th World Cup Finals played.

A tie vs. Mexico could also clinch a U.S. berth in the 2006 World Cup, but only if the other two CONCACAF qualifying matches on September 3 (Panama vs. Costa Rica and Trinidad & Tobago vs. Guatemala) result in ties.

Mexico defeated Costa Rica at home last night, 2-0, to maintain the top spot in the final round of qualifying with 16 points (5-0-1), while the U.S sits in second place with 15 points (5-1-0). In the other CONCACAF match last night, Guatemala beat Panama at home, 2-1. Costa Rica and Guatemala are tied for third with seven points each, with Trinidad & Tobago in fifth with four points and Panama sixth with two points.

The CONCACAF Final Round Qualifying tournament is a 10-game round-robin format tournament that began on Feb. 9 and runs through Oct. 12, 2005, with the top three teams automatically advancing to the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. The fourth-place team will compete in a two-game playoff to be held Nov. 12/13 and Nov. 16 against the fifth-place finisher in Asian qualifying.

The Labor Day weekend tilt in Crew Stadium, presented by Budweiser, will be televised live at 7:30 p.m. (ET) on ESPN Classic and Telemundo, and fans are also able to follow the match live at via MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics.

Tickets for the U.S. vs. Mexico World Cup qualifier in Columbus sold out minutes after they went on sale to the general public on August 2. Anticipating the biggest international soccer event in Crew Stadium since the U.S. faced Mexico on Feb. 28, 2001, fans snapped up tickets during a week-long presale for select members of the U.S. Soccer community, including registered members and Crew season ticket holders. The remaining tickets sold out in 20 minutes.

The Crew Stadium match will be the fifth World Cup qualifier hosted by the six-year old venue. The U.S. has a 2-0-2 record in qualifying and a 3-0-3 all-time record there. In 2004, the U.S. defeated Grenada on June 13 by a 3-0 score in a second-round qualifying match, before tying Jamaica, 1-1, in the final match of the semifinal round on Nov. 17. The U.S. matches at Crew Stadium also include the 2-0 victory over Mexico in the last U.S. final-round qualifier vs. the Tricolores at home. In that match on Feb. 28, 2001, Josh Wolff and Earnie Stewart scored for the U.S. before a sold-out crowd of 24,624 fans who braved freezing temperatures.

The U.S. has just 11 wins in 50 matches against Mexico in a series that dates to 1934, but the U.S. has a 9-6-8 advantage in home matches since 1957. In the last nine meetings, the U.S. has won six games by shutout and tied another meeting, 0-0, in 2003. Additionally, since the rivalry between these two teams began in earnest in 1990, the sides have played 23 times, with the U.S. holding a 9-7-7 advantage. The last two U.S. losses were in Mexico City in final-round qualifying for the FIFA World Cup, including a 2-1 defeat on March 27 of this year.

Under U.S. Manager Bruce Arena, the U.S. has a 6-4-1 record vs. their border rivals including a 13-6 advantage in goal differential. The biggest of those six wins was a 2-0 victory for the U.S. on June 17, 2002, that sent Mexico home from Korea while the U.S. advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup. In World Cup qualifying, the U.S. has a 3-14-5 record vs. Mexico.

CONCACAF Hexagonal standings

Team         P    W    L    D    GF:GA    GD    PTS
Mexico       6    5    0    1    11:3     +8    16
USA          6    5    1    0    12:3     +9    15
Guatemala    6    2    3    1     9:9      0     7
Costa Rica   6    2    3    1     6:10    -4     7
T&T          6    1    4    1     4:10    -6     4
Panama       6    0    4    2     3:10    -7     2

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