The U.S. men’s soccer team is on the brink.

If they lose tonight to Guatemala, they will likely miss the World Cup for the first time since 1986. 

There are reasons to believe that this won’t happen! The U.S. has only lost to Guatemala twice since 1988 (though one of those times happened last Friday). They’re a much better squad (though they looked really awful last Friday). And today is a new day, and it is definitely not last Friday, which was a dark day in the history of U.S. soccer. The U.S. should win tonight and if they win tonight their hope of qualifying for the World Cup is very much alive. 

But oh man, there is a possibility that they won’t win, and that would be very bad for a lot of reasons. It would mean that CONCACAF would almost certainly send two not-so-great teams to the World Cup, along with Mexico, and that would lower the quality of play in the World Cup. It would mean that I would be sad, because making myself believe that the United States can make it past the quarterfinals is one of my favorite rituals. And it would mean that American soccer would go four years without a badly needed lifeline, because American soccer still needs the World Cup to breathe life into it every four years.