US beats Panama 4-0 in World Cup qualifying, Socceroos likely to face Honduras or Panama if they beat Syria

US beats Panama 4-0 in World Cup qualifying, Socceroos likely to face Honduras or Panama if they beat Syria

US beats Panama 4-0 in World Cup qualifying, Socceroos likely to face Honduras or Panama if they beat Syria

Updated 7 October 2017, 14:30 AEDT

After a ruthless 4-0 win over Panama, the US looks like it's rediscovered some scorching form just in time to avoid a potentially nerve-shredding World Cup play-off against the Socceroos — assuming we account for Syria.

For a long time, it looked like the Socceroos, struggling for peak form and bumped into the fourth round of Asian qualifying for the FIFA World Cup, was on a collision course with the United States.

The US, in the form doldrums themselves for much of their campaign in the North and Central American confederation (CONCACAF), looked doomed to finish fourth and set up an inter-confederation play-off with either Australia or Syria.

Thankfully, that potentially nerve-shredding encounter looks unlikely to eventuate, after the US men's national team rediscovered its mojo to demolish Panama 4-0 and move up to third place in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying ladder.

All of these permutations, of course, matter only if you assume Australia can beat Syria in Sydney next week (or hold them to a 0-0 draw).

CONCACAF's top three teams — Mexico, Costa Rica and now the US — stand to automatically qualify for the showpiece event in Russia, with the fourth-placed heading to the play-off.

The US plays its final game against bottom-placed Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday.

CONCACAF ladder

PWDLGDPts
1. MEX8530+818
2. CRC8431+715
3. USA9333+512
4. PAN9243-210
5. HON8233-79
6. TRI8107-113

"I was very confident in this group. We've come a long way since November 2016 and in good position to hopefully get the third spot," US coach Bruce Arena told ESPN.

"I think Panama will beat Costa Rica so we need a result in Trinidad."

Fifth-placed Honduras faces Costa Rica away from home on Sunday morning (AEDT) and a shock win would see it leapfrog Panama into fourth, but it closes out its campaign at home with a difficult clash with top-placed Mexico.

A win for Panama in its final match against Costa Rica will secure fourth place for Panama at least.

Presently locked at 1-1 on aggregate with a crucial away goal, if the Socceroos finish the job against Syria in the second leg of the Asian play-off in Sydney, it will have to wait until the following morning to find out exactly who their opponents will be in November.

But with the US heavily favoured to account for Trinidad and Tobago, Socceroos fans can breathe a caveat-laced sigh of relief they will not have to face opposition with the prestige of the Americans, powered by super kid Christian Pulisic.

Pulisic — one of the most highly-rated youngsters in world football currently plying his trade with Bundesliga outfit Borussia Dortmund — was at the peak of his powers against Panama, ghosting past the keeper before tapping in on the stretch for the US opener.

He turned provider later in the first half, beating his man superbly before firing in a low cross for Josey Altidore to finish.

Altidore made it 3-0 from the penalty spot to lead 3-0 inside the first half, before Bobby Wood made it 4-0 in the second stanza to seal a huge win.

Despite their scratchy form for much of the campaign, USA's upsurge in fortunes came at a worrying time for Australia, which would be thankful if it were to avoid facing the Stars and Stripes in a pressure-cooker, do-or-die play-off for a World Cup place.