Christian Pulisic scored a hat-trick as the United States thrashed Panama 5-1 on Sunday to all but secure their place at the 2022 World Cup.
While still not officially assured of a spot in Qatar, only an implausible six-goal midweek defeat to Costa Rica would prevent Gregg Berhalter’s side from returning to the tournament after missing out four years ago.
Costa Rica’s 2-1 win in El Salvador earlier in the day meant USA were unable to join Canada in making absolutely sure of their qualification, though they went about their business professionally in Orlando.
Pulisic opened the scoring in the 17th minute from the spot after Anibal Godoy was penalised for grappling with Walker Zimmerman, and soon after it was 2-0 as Paul Arriola headed in Antonee Robinson’s delivery.
Jesus Ferreira made it 3-0 just before the half-hour mark with a close-range finish and Pulisic ensured they went into the break four up thanks to his second penalty of the day – Godoy was again the guilty party, fouling Miles Robinson.
Pulisic completed his hat-trick in style with 65 minutes played, producing a lovely touch to turn and then convert, though a late Godoy consolation prevented Zack Steffen keeping a clean sheet.
USA need only a point on Wednesday to ensure they are in Friday’s World Cup draw, though in reality they could lose 5-0 to fourth-placed Costa Rica and still qualify due to their superior goal difference.
USA 5 – 1 PAN.