USA vs. El Salvador CONCACAF World Cup Qualifier Odds, Picks, Predictions: Can Christian Pulisic, Americans Triumph? (Jan. 27)

USA vs. El Salvador CONCACAF World Cup Qualifier Odds, Picks, Predictions: Can Christian Pulisic, Americans Triumph? (Jan. 27) article feature image

John Dorton/ISI Photos/Getty Images. Pictured: United States star Christian Pulisic.

  • The United States continues its quest for a World Cup berth when it faces El Salvador in Thursday's match.
  • Christian Pulisic and the Americans are heavy favorites to pick up the victory, which could vault them into first place in the group.
  • Ian Quillen breaks things down below and details where he's found the most betting value.

USA vs. El Salvador Odds

USA Odds-400
El Salvador Odds+1150
Over/Under2.5 (-115 / -115)
Day | TimeThursday | 7 p.m. ET
LocationColumbus, Ohio
How To WatchESPN2 | ESPN+ | fuboTV
Odds updated as of Thursday morning via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute soccer odds here.

The United States is a heavy favorite when it hosts El Salvador on Thursday in a FIFA World Cup qualifying match at Field in Columbus, Ohio.

The Americans, who sit second out of eight teams in the CONCACAF region,  are vying for one of three automatic places at this year's event in Qatar, but are locked in a tight race. The USA sits just a point in front of Mexico and Panama, but are currently a point behind first-place Canada.

El Salvador is eight points back with only six games remaining to make up ground and secure at least a fourth-place finish. That fourth finisher will play the winner of the Oceania Football Confederation in a June playoff for another spot in Qatar.

The Salvadorans held the Americans to a 0-0 draw back in the opening qualifying match in early September.

USA Inching Closer to World Cup Berth

Aside from a masterful Nov. 12 home win over Mexico, the Americans have fallen short of lofty internal goals to transform their reputation around the globe. Even so, they're well on pace historically to qualify after their shock failure to reach Russia 2018.

If the heavy favorite wins its final three home games against El Salvador, Honduras and Panama, it will be guaranteed to finish with at least 24 points and 1.7 points per game.

It will be more if they earn even a point from three remaining away fixtures. Since CONCACAF was granted three World Cup berths for the first time in 1998, no team has earned 1.7 points per game or more in the final round of qualifying and failed to qualify.

The equation is a little different in the 2022 cycle with an expanded final-round field of eight teams. However, 24 USA points and a win over Panama would leave the latter an enormous task. Los Canaleros also have a trip to Mexico and home game with Canada left on its schedule.

Since a spotty 1-1 draw against Canada, the USMNT has also performed consistently at home, winning all three games since. The Americans outscored opponents by a 6-1 margin during that stretch, creating 6.0 expected goals  and allowing 2.5 xGA across those matches.

If there's any reason for concern, it continues to be at the striker position. Ricardo Pepi is navigating his recent move to struggling Bundesliga side Augsburg, but he's likely to start. Daryl Dike is out at least a couple months with a nasty hamstring issue. Josh Sargent finally scored his first goals for Norwich City last weekend, but didn't make manager Gregg Berhalter's squad.

FIFA 2022 World Cup CONCACAF Standings

Costa Rica2-3-39
El Salvador1-4-36

Desperate Times for Struggling El Salvador

Hugo Perez's side has performed admirably in its first appearance in CONCACAF'S final qualifying round since the 2010 cycle.

Any objective look at the Los Cuscatlecos roster would judge it as having the least pedigree of the eight finalists. Seattle Sounders fullback Alex Roldan — a good, but not, great Major League Soccer player — is the best Perez has to choose from in the back. Most of his squad are based domestically or in the lower tiers of the U.S. pro game.

And yet, El Salvador has had at least a puncher's chance in every qualifier it has played, falling only once by more than two goals. That 3-0 defeat at Canada came as Perez's thin squad played its third game in seven days, which came against one of the deepest rosters in the region.

One potential wild card is what exactly will be most important to Perez's squad. If they want to remain theoretically alive in the qualifying picture, only three points will do. That would mean a more aggressive than normally prudent against a technically superior opponent. However, El Salvador hasn't reached the World Cup since 1986 and their hopes are already slim.

They'll be much better in 2026, when at least six CONCACAF nations will be part of the 48-team field. So, a first-ever qualifying draw on U.S. soil might still be seen as a historic result and the kind to move the program forward.

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Betting Analysis & Pick

At times, the Americans have been overvalued against regional opponents this cycle. However, this isn't one of those instances. The USMNT has won 14 consecutive matches overall against El Salvador on American soil, including three in qualifying and six in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

If there's any value on a moneyline play, it's the Yanks at -400 or even a bit higher. You might also consider the USA to win and the total going over 1.5 goals at -200 odds. The Americans haven't played a home qualifier with fewer than two goals since the 2014 cycle. Yet, for a larger payout, the value is in a final score that may not be as dominant as the run of play.

Berhalter's striking options are limited, which shouldn't put the result in doubt, but might impact the offensive output. It's also possible El Salvador might be more motivated to keep the game close rather than throw the kitchen sink at the USMNT if it goes behind.

That said, I like playing the Americans to score exactly two goals at +230 odds and an implied 30.3% probability. They've hit that total in three of their four home qualifiers this cycle, and in seven of their last 10 wins across all competitions against their opponents.

I'd say there's a better than two in five chance — at least — that the USA hits that number again here.

Pick: United States — 2 Goals Exact (+230)

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