Having survived Round 3 of CONCACAF qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup, the U.S. men's national soccer team (USMNT) and coach Jurgen Klinsmann can now turn their attention to the final steps of the hopeful journey to Brazil.
American fans had come to simply expect a berth in the next World Cup. They can be excused for that expectation. Since the longest of droughts ended with U.S. qualification for the 1990 World Cup—22 years ago—the USMNT has qualified every four years.
The road has never been what the players would call easy, but over the last two decades a prevailing view developed that the U.S. and Mexico are locks for the top two out of three tickets.
Mexico appears it can hold up its part of the bargain this time, even on cruise control. For USMNT fans, however, this third round was something of a shocker. The Americans needed results in the final two games of the round just to advance to next year's Hexagonal, when the final six teams will face one another in a single group of home and away matches.
With new awareness of the real potential for premature team mortality, here are five questions the USMNT and Klinsmann must answer before entering the Hex's opening game on February 6.