So here we are, coming down the final stretch of CONCACAF's qualification campaign for South Africa 2010. So let's take a gander at how things have shaken out thus far (table courtesy of the font of all human knowlege)...
...are probably punching at just above their weight, with their current lofty position as much an indication of their solid performances as it is of the less-than-impressive displays on offer from Los Gigantes, Mexico and the US. Their remaining schedule might bring them back down to earth however. First up is a visit to Honduras, followed by hosting Mexico, after which they travel to El Salvador (who has drawn and beaten the two big dogs at home), host T&T, and end with a trip to the US.
Prospects? They've built a solid lead, but that run-in does not look comfortable.
Prediction? Probably second, but Honduras and Mexico might push them severely.
...are probably hovering somewhere between mildly disappointed and cautiously optimistic. Their displays haven't been particularly impressive, but they are getting the type of results they need to progress. The remaining schedule starts with a trip to Mexico, continues with a winnable home date with El Salvador, gets a little rockier with visits to T&T and Honduras, and finishes at home to Costa Rica.
Prospects? Any sort of result in Mexico would be a positive, but even without one, wins against El Salvador and T&T in the next two matches will probably be enough to secure an automatic bid.
Prediction? It won't be by a wide margin, but the US will probably do enough (and their opposition will helpfully stumble enough) to allow them to advance at the head of the class. Homer bias? Me?
...has been a mixed bag, stumbling out of the gate, only to come roaring back, before stumbling, and then barely recovering. With a little consistency, they'd be a real threat. Still, they are currently sitting in an automatic qualifying spot, with a remaining schedule that kicks off with home dates entertaining Costa Rica and T&T, followed by a trip to Mexico, hosting the US, and finishing on the road in El Salvador.
Prospects? Consistency is the key. Their next two matches are huge, as a couple of home victories could give them a little wiggle room heading into matches against Mexico and the US.
Prediction? It will come down to the last match. A victory in El Salvador will guarantee them a trip to the finals, but they'll trip, stumble, and fall into the play-in qualifier against South America's fifth-best.
...has been the biggest disappointment of the Hex, registering points only in their two home matches. Fortunately for them, they have three home matches remaining. Still, they will need to get something on the road if they expect to qualify comfortably. But they're too big to fail, right? Right? The crucial matches happen almost immediately with a home date against the US and a trip to Costa Rica. Those will be followed by hosting Honduras and El Salvador, with the closer away to T&T.
Prospects? The second half is front-loaded for the Mexicans, with their likely competitors for those three automatic bids appearing one by one. Nine points at home is doable, but they'll probably need something from one of their road matches to avoid the play-in spot.
Prediction? As I said in the Honduras section, they'll probably enter the final date in fourth, needing to better Honduras, which, sadly, Honduras will allow, thus confirming Mexico's continued presence at the finals. (Sigh.)
...have been something of a surprise package thus far, beating Mexico and drawing with the US at home, and only losing 1-0 away to Honduras and Costa Rica. The problem? That home draw against T&T and only having two more home games remaining. They open the second half of the Hex away to T&T and the US, followed by a home date with Costa Rica, a trip to Mexico, and the last match home to Honduras.
Prospects? They have an outside shot at the play-in spot, but they'll need to hold serve at home and probably get a win away to T&T to boot. A point away to either the US or Mexico would be huge, but unlikely.
Prediction? A comfortable fifth. I can't see them doing enough on the road to challenge for that play-in spot.
Trinidad & Tabago
...are pretty much living up to expectations after jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the opener away to El Salvador. That late collapse was pretty much indicative of where things have gone since then. Their remaining schedule is home to El Salvador, away to Honduras, home to the US, away to Costa Rica, and home to Mexico.
Prospects? Not good. They probably need at least four wins from their remaining fixtures to have a shot at a second-straight play in.
Prediction? Sixth. They may get a win or two in the second half, but that won't be enough to escape the basement.