It will be winner-takes-all at The Office in Kingston on Sunday, November 13. Jamaica and Suriname play to decide which team spends next summer contesting the 2017 Caribbean and Gold Cups, and which will be shopping for a friendly opponent or two to fill the long months without meaningful international competition.
That Jamaica is in this situation at all - potentially 90 minutes away from a relatively barren 2017 (there is potentially another route to a Gold Cup berth for the loser of this game, but it is not guaranteed and will be scant consolation) - illustrates how far the Reggae Boyz have fallen since their run to the final of the 2015 Gold Cup. In 2016, Jamaica has won two senior men's internationals, and none at home. The team has been bounced out of World Cup qualifying and dropped head coach Winfried Schafer.
Theodore "Tappa" Whitmore is Jamaica's interim head coach, but if he can't coax a win out of the Reggae Boyz in this game, the task of managing the team full-time won't be all that interesting to anyone: Jamaica will have neither Caribbean Cup nor Gold Cup to play for next year. And it is a long wait for the next cycle of World Cup qualifiers.
Jamaican men's national team soccer is at a low ebb, and the Reggae Boyz must confront an unexpectedly important game without two key players: New England Revolution's Je-Vaughn Watson and New York Red Bulls' Kemar Lawrence. Also missing is much of the foreign-based and foreign-born legion that was groomed for the current World Cup qualifying cycle. There were no call-ups for Michael Hector, Wes Morgan, Jobi McAnuff, or Clayton Donaldson, for example.
Instead, Whitmore will take on Suriname with a squad that is relatively inexperienced at the international level. Andre Blake (the Philadelphia Union 'keeper will captain Jamaica in this match) and Dicoy Williams are the only players on the roster with double-digit national team caps to their respective names.
Even a squad of fringe and emerging players from Jamaica's player pool is expected to be better than Suriname in Kingston. But these Caribbean Cup qualifiers have made a habit upsetting expectations. Curacao, French Guiana and Martinique are already qualified for next year's Gold Cup and the finals of Caribbean Cup. Trinidad and Tobago and Haiti are not.
There will be a winner of this match between Jamaica and Suriname, since the rules of the tournament do not allow for ties. But that winner is not inevitably going to be Jamaica.