So the United States, Mexico and Costa Rica are all on nine points after three qualifiers apiece. Each nation is pretty much through to the Hexagonal, though I haven't done the math. Maybe they are in for sure, don't know.
And while it's a great accomplishment for each nation to be 3-0 at this point, it's not exactly surprising. It's actually kind of expected that each team is where they are.
Which brings me to my question: is this semifinal round really necessary for the Big Three?
There are arguments for both sides of the question.
On the one hand, you don't want to give any team free passes. Let the Big Three mix it up with the rest and let them go through qualifying like any other CONCACAF nation. You don't necessarily want to make it any easier for the big dogs' already, they've gotten themselves to the point where they are the regional powers. At some point, Mexico should be at the same level as Canada regardless of past accomplishments, right?
Then again, we all know what's going to happen. The Big Three will cruise in this round and easily get into the Hex. There was some intrigue in 2000 with Costa Rica and Guatemala fighting out for the last Hex spot but that is ancient history as the previous cycle showed. All this round does is show the disparity between the region's upper crust and the supposed second tier. If Honduras, Trinidad & Tobago and some others are supposed to be the second tier, this region is in sad shape.
I don't know, though. I'm not sure what else can be done to change this system. It's a lot to ask the Big Three to play 18 qualifiers over an 18-month span when the outcome isn't hardly ever in doubt for them. Many of us dream about some sort of merger with South America but I don't think that is realistic, though the prospect of some real high-intensity qualifiers makes my mouth water. Can you imagine the US going down to Quito needing a result to get into the World Cup? Talk about drama, more drama than the US going into piss-poor Cuba and playing on some crappy field with crappy lighting and getting a boring three points.
Maybe CONMEBOL might be up for that, though. They get 4 spots right now guaranteed with a chance of a fifth. That fifth spot would be against a CONCACAF nation so there are 8 total spots from the Western Hemisphere. If CONMEBOL had a shot of getting six teams in, maybe that would be some incentive for nations like Chile and Colombia to push for a merger since it'd be easier for them to face the US or Costa Rica needing a spot in the World Cup than Brazil or Argentina.
Okay, well, I'm totally daydreaming now. Yes, it'd be fantastic. No, it's not going to happen anytime soon.
In reality, the US, Mexico and Costa Rica will be in the Hex next year with Honduras, El Salvador and Trinidad/Guatemala. The US will win all five home games, lose in Mexico City and San Jose, win in San Salvador and Port-of-Spain/Guatemala City and draw in San Pedro Sula and many will feel that the US has a grand shot of reaching the WC quarters again because qualifying was a breeze when in actuality qualifying will give many a false sense of security for qualifying in such a brisk manner does little to prepare the team for real competition. Mexico in Azteca is real competition; Guatemala in Guatemala City is not.