At least half of BigSoccer readers can pretty much ignore this thread. If you've followed the USMNT long enough, you don't need me to tell you the history. For recent fans of the team, though, the following line of thinking may be tempting: this team beat Spain, drew England, and recently embarrassed Scotland; surely it should run roughshod over CONCACAF! My warnings are twofold: 1. The USMNT has never, ever breezed through both the semifinal stage and final stage of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying in the same cycle. 2. There hasn't been a lot of correlation between ease of qualifying and success in the World Cup. Let's dispense with ancient history quickly. No qualification was necessary for 1930. The USA trailed Mexico 1-0 in their sole, single-elimination qualifying game for 1934, but came back to win 4-2. For 1950, already-qualified Mexico defeated Cuba in the last qualification game, allowing the USA to back into the tournament with a record of 1 win, 1 draw, and 2 losses. For 1990, Jamaica was drawing the USA 1-1 in the 67th minute of the final match of the semifinal stage, a result that would have eliminated the USA. But with a late flurry, the USA went on to win 5-1 and advance to the final stage. In the final stage, of course, Caligiuri's famous strike in the last match gave the USA the 1-0 victory, and thus the World Cup berth. In some sense, it also qualified the USA for the 1994 World Cup, as it silenced the opposition to the USA's scheduled hosting of the 1994 World Cup, and allowed the USA to claim the host's automatic berth for that tournament. For 1998, the USA actually did almost breeze through the semifinal stage. Three wins in the first three matches gave the USA an eight-point cushion for advancement, and a loss in Costa Rica in the fourth match was the only blemish of consequence. The USA mathematically advanced with a match to spare. In the final stage, the USA was in deep trouble after earning 6 points in the first 5 matches, but finished with win-draw-draw in Azteca-win-win, qualifying with a match to spare. Then the USA lost all three games at the World Cup. For 2002, the USA started the semifinal stage horrifically, earning 1 point in the first two matches. Things looked better after a 7-0 stomping of Barbados (who had already defeated Costa Rica), followed by McBride scoring the game's only goal to give the USA the win over visiting Guatemala in the fourth match. But then the USA struggled to a scoreless draw over visiting Guatemala, and then was facing elimination in Barbados in the 62nd minute of the last match, with the score still 0-0. Mathis then scored to open the floodgates in an eventual 4-0 victory, and the USA was relieved to advance. In the final stage, the USA stood in fourth place with two matches to play, out of a qualifying spot. But a win in the USA's ninth match combined with helpful results in that day's other matches qualified the USA with a match to spare. Then the USA advanced all the way to the World Cup quarterfinals. For 2006, the USA needed late goals just to escape with draws in both its first match and its third match of the semifinal stage. But a win in El Salvador, followed by a 6-0 stomping of visiting Panama, advanced the USA with a match to spare. Then the USA did indeed breeze through the final stage, winning six of its first seven matches (marred only by a loss at Azteca) to qualify with three matches to spare. Unfortunately, this run culminated in a last-place, 1-point finish in Group E of the 2006 World Cup. For 2010, the USA breezed through the semifinal stage for once, winning its first four matches to advance with two matches to spare. The final stage was much more of a struggle. In the penultimate match, the USA eventually got the unlikely win in Honduras it needed to advance with a match to spare. Then the USA ended up winning its group in the World Cup. For 2014, it would be a significant accomplishment for the USA to breeze through both the semifinal stage and the final stage. I hope that it can be done, but I'm not expecting such domination. As long as the USA qualifies, the character of the road to qualification may not foretell all that much about the World Cup.