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How many times have USMNT been in World Cup qualifying play-off?

The USMNT know defeat to Mexico in 2022 World Cup qualifying on Friday could leave them on the verge of slipping into CONCACAF's intercontinental play-off spot.

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How many times have USMNT been in World Cup qualifying play-off?
ORLANDO SIERRA AFP via Getty Images

The United States face a crunch clash at the head of CONCACAF’s 2022 World Cup qualifying group on Friday night - and defeat could leave Gregg Berhalter’s men on the brink of dropping out of the top three and into a play-off spot.

USMNT up against group leaders Mexico in Ohio

The second-placed USMNT host Mexico at TQL Stadium, Cincinnati, on matchday seven of CONCACAF’s third and final round of qualifying, with the Mexicans three points clear in first.

The top three finishers in the eight-team group will qualify automatically for the World Cup, while the country in fourth place will go into a two-legged intercontinental play-off, against a nation from Asia, South America or Oceania.

Mexico’s draw with Canada in early October had allowed the USMNT to leapfrog ‘El Tri’ at the top of the group, but the Stars and Stripes, who failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, then slipped back to second after a surprise defeat to Panama on matchday five.

Canada, Panama chasing second-placed USMNT

The US beat Costa Rica 2-1 last time out, but have third-placed Canada breathing down their necks one point behind them, with Panama three points back in the play-off spot.

Both have ostensibly easier tasks than the US on Friday, with the Canadians hosting fifth-placed Costa Rica and the Panamanians visiting the group’s bottom team, Honduras.

However, the US’ recent record against Mexico is very good: they have won the sides’ two meetings so far in 2021, beating Gerardo Martino’s men in the CONCACAF Nations League final in June, before also triumphing in the Gold Cup final two months later.

Have the US ever been involved in a World Cup qualifying play-off before?

Yes, they have. But just the once, and nearly 90 years ago. It came in qualifying for World Cup 1934 - and was against Friday night’s opponents.

The US had been late in applying to take part in qualification for the tournament in Italy, and FIFA's solution was to pit the Americans against Mexico - who had seen off Cuba in the second round of regional qualifying - in a last-minute play-off for a place in the finals.

So on 24 May 1934, just three days before the World Cup itself began, the teams faced off in a single-legged, neutral-venue match-up at the Stadio Nazionale in Rome, and the US were 4-2 winners.

All four of the Americans’ goals were scored by Aldo ‘Buff’ Donelli, who would also go on to enjoy a career as a player and coach in American football, both at college and NFL level.

In total, the US have made it to the World Cup finals 10 times - the first, in 1930, by invitation; the following nine by successfully negotiating qualifying.

USMNT's World Cup qualifying record

Year Qualified/DNQ Qualifying performance
2018 Did not qualify Fifth in CONCACAF fifth-round qualifying group
2014 Qualified First in CONCACAF fourth-round qualifying group
2010 Qualified First in CONCACAF fourth-round qualifying group
2006 Qualified First in CONCACAF fourth-round qualifying group
2002 Qualified Third in CONCACAF final-round qualifying group
1998 Qualified Second in CONCACAF fourth-round qualifying group
1994 Qualified Qualified as hosts
1990 Qualified Second in 1989 CONCACAF Championship
1986 Did not qualify Eliminated in first round of 1985 CONCACAF Championship
1982 Did not qualify Did not qualify for 1981 CONCACAF Championship
1978 Did not qualify Did not qualify for 1977 CONCACAF Championship
1974 Did not qualify Did not qualify for 1973 CONCACAF Championship
1970 Did not qualify Eliminated in CONCACAF qualifying semi-finals
1966 Did not qualify Eliminated in first round of CONCACAF qualifying
1962 Did not qualify Eliminated in first round of NAFC/CCCF qualifying
1958 Did not qualify Eliminated in first round of NAFC/CCCF qualifying
1954 Did not qualify Second in NAFC/CCCF qualifying group
1950 Qualified Second in 1949 NAFC Championship
1938 Did not qualify Withdrew
1934 Qualified Won qualifying play-off
1930 Qualified Qualified by invitation

USMNT vs Mexico: live with AS USA

You can follow live-text coverage of the USMNT's 2022 World Cup qualifier against Mexico with AS USA. Rodrigo Serrano will be building up to the game at TQL Stadium from about an hour ahead of the 9:10pm ET kick-off, before taking you through the action as it happens.