It may only be 2015, but the United States begins its quest to qualify for the 2018 Russian World Cup on Friday November 13th, against St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The U.S. was drawn into Group 3 for qualifying along with the Vincy Heat, Guatemala, and Trinidad and Tobago. The top two teams from the group will advance to the "Hex": the final round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying, which will see six teams compete for three guaranteed World Cup spots (and the consolation prize of a playoff with the fifth-best team out of the Asian qualifying tournament for the Hexagonal's fourth-placed side).
Despite the U.S. having lost its last three home matches, it is expected to dominate the 129th-ranked Vincy Heat.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a relative unknown (seriously, try finding their roster for this match). The team's star player is forward Tevin Slater, who has eight goals in 12 appearances, and is CONCACAF's leading scorer in 2018 World Cup qualifying to date.
While the U.S. will be the favorite in this match, the team is without star forward Clint Dempsey, who was left off the roster by Jurgen Klinsmann.
With the absence of Dempsey and a slumping Jozy Altidore, Bobby Wood will be presented with a golden opportunity to stake his claim as a starter. Goals should be freely available against an opponent short on top-level professional experience.
Klinsmann will have the luxury of being able to experiment with the lineup, if it pleases him. This match should be a blowout. Look for the possible debuts of national team newcomers Darlington Nagbe and the Red Bulls' Matt Miazga, as Klinsmann seeks the ideal outcome to the match: three points and a few new faces in his player pool.
Miazga is also eligible for the Polish National Team. A competitive appearance for USMNT would cap-tie the young defender to the country of his birth: the presumed reason for his call-up to this particular squad.
Expect an easy win for the U.S. on Friday as it looks to start World Cup qualifying off on the right foot. Three points is really all that matters, but the team will almost certainly be judged by the number of goals it manages to score against what is expected to be a thoroughly out-gunned opponent.