The United States men's national soccer team is about to play two of its most important games ever — with at least $10 million on the line.
The U.S. takes on Panama in Orlando Friday night, then travels abroad to play Trinidad and Tobago Tuesday.
The United States needs to do well enough to finish in third place in its regional conference, known as CONCACAF. If the U.S. finishes in fourth, it has to play an international play-off match in November in order to qualify for the World Cup in Russia in 2018. A worse than fourth place finish means the end of one of the best soccer streaks in international history.
"We are very proud that we've qualified for every World Cup since 1990. There aren't a lot of teams that can say that" said Sunil Gulati, president of the United States Soccer Federation, in a telephone interview with CNBC. "This would be eight straight cups."
Despite perhaps getting less credit than it deserves, the U.S. national program has had a tremendous record in international play, qualifying for every World Cup dating back to 1990 — the tournament is held every four years. Only Brazil, Germany, Italy, Argentina, Spain and South Korea have fared better.