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USMNT to wrap up World Cup qualifying campaign against Panama

The United States already booked its ticket for the 2014 World Cup but will look to wrap up the Hex with a solid performance against a desperate Panama squad.

United States vs. Panama
2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying; CONCACAF regional tournament
October 15, 2013, 6:30 pm PT; Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City, Panama

The U.S. National Team has sealed a bid in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but now has the chance to finish with the best Hexagonal Round record in team history when it meets Panama in the final qualifying match on Tuesday at Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City.

The U.S. has already clinched first place in the final round of qualifying in the CONCACAF region, boasting a 6-2-1 record entering the final match. Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann is going for victory, but will do so with a roster of players that is mostly looking to solidify roles with the team for Brazil in 2014.

“We are extremely happy to finish the Hex in first position. Everyone is excited about that,” Klinsmann said after posting a 2-0 win over Jamaica on Friday. “If you look at this year, 2013, it has been a tremendous experience for all of us.”

Klinsmann released four players from the team prior to Tuesday’s clash with Panama, sending home Landon Donovan and Jermaine Jones because of injuries and Matt Besler and Tim Howard as part of a planned rotation. Brad Guzan will make his third start of the Hexagonal Round at goalkeeper in place of Howard. Guzan earned shutouts against Costa Rica and Mexico in March in his previous two outings.

Sounders FC’s Brad Evans remains with the team, where he has started at right back in all four World Cup qualifying matches that he has been available for, including in a 2-0 win at CenturyLink Field in the previous match against Panama on June 11.

Evans is vying for the starting role on the defense and thus far has not been unseated.

The match will mark the third time this year that the U.S. will meet Panama. In addition to the win in Seattle, there also was a 1-0 win in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final on July 28 at Soldier Field in Chicago. It will be just the fourth time they have met in Panama, though, with the United States holding a 2-0-1 edge in those matches.

Panama is coming off of a stunning 2-1 loss to Mexico that saw a late comeback foiled by a stunning Raul Jimenez bicycle kick goal in the 85th minute. The match featured several MLS players, with LA Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, FC Dallas forward Blas Perez and Colorado Rapids forward Gabriel Torres all seeing the field.

All three matches in the final day of the qualifying tournament will kick off at 6:30 pm PT and all three have huge implications.

In one match, Costa Rica hosts Mexico, as Mexico needs a draw to ensure at least a spot in the International Playoff against New Zealand. At 2-2-5, Mexico is fourth in the standings. A loss would leave the window open for Panama, who is three points behind at 1-3-5 and would need a win to bring tiebreakers into play for the right to play against New Zealand. That match could also be played by Honduras, who faces Jamaica in Kingston, but it would take a win by Mexico and loss from Honduras to bring Los Catrachos into that round.