Panama and Costa Rica are expected to be part of the group battling for the final World Cup spot and that begins on Wednesday when they square off in Panama City.
Most agree that Mexico is the best team in CONCACAF and the United States is the second best team. Both are expected to qualify easily for the World Cup, but after that, the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying is a complete toss up.
The remaining four teams are all good enough to finish third and book their spot in Brazil, which will make for a hotly contested battle for that precious qualifying place. So when two of the teams from the quartet square off, as Panama and Costa Rica will on Wednesday, it is as much about making the opposition drop points as it is about getting points yourself.
Panama is the region's most improved team from last cycle, complimenting veterans Felipe Baloy and Blas Perez with new, younger talent that has made Los Canaleros a formidable squad. They allowed just two goals in all of the semifinal round and will make things difficult on Costa Rica.
The Ticos will be happy to get a draw in Panama City in the first half of a brutal start of qualifying that will see them travel to the United States on their next matchday. Costa Rica isn't as good as they were last time around, but still have plenty of talent and a potent strike force in Bryan Ruiz and Alvaro Saborio that will certainly test Panama's excellent defense.
If Costa Rica can manage a draw, only only will they have gotten a result, but they will have made Panama drop two points at home. In a four-team battle for 1.5 spots that is expected to be as tight as this, that can't be ignored. Bring on the Hex.
Match Date/Time: Wednesday, February 6; 9:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City, Panama
TV: beIN Sport (English), beIN Sport en Espanol (Spanish)