The 2014 World Cup may seem light-years away to some, but the journey for the United States and Honduras starts on Wednesday. The two sides will face off in the first match of the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, where the six teams remaining will compete for three automatic berths.
Neither the United States nor Honduras will have their tickets to Brazil stamped or denied on Wednesday, but you should be able to feel the desperation permeating from both sides. United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann seems ready to come out aggressively after some frustrating results of late, and most of the USMNT's top stars will be in the starting 11.
Meanwhile, Honduras is a pretty heavy underdog in most pundits' eyes. But they will be playing at home against a team that's shown a penchant for getting upset before, so don't expect anyone to roll over.
With both teams looking to get their World Cup journey started in the right way, Wednesday's match will be a must-watch for any good soccer fan. For that reason, here is a complete breakdown of when and where to watch the match, along with a few players to look out for on Wednesday.
When: Wednesday, Feb. 6 at 4 p.m. ET
Where: Estadio Olimpico in San Pedro Sula, Honduras
Watch: beIN Sport
Players to Watch
Carlos Bocanegra, United States
The USMNT captain always plays an integral role the United States' matches, but his increased responsibility will once again be on display Wednesday. With Landon Donovan's absence casting a shadow over the entire proceedings, it will be Bocanegra's leadership responsibilities that are through the roof.
The United States' inexperience is particularly noteworthy on the defense. None of the defenders that Klinsmann brought other than Bocanegra have a ton of international experience, so it will be up to the 33-year-old veteran to keep things running smoothly.
If Bocanegra's work in World Cup qualifiers thus far is any indication of his play on Wednesday, then the United States should have nothing to worry about. He's been excellent for the USMNT in qualifiers thus far, even scoring his 14th international goal against Guatemala back in October.
With Jerry Bengtson and the Honduras attack undoubtedly looking to score early and put the United States' back up against the wall, it will be critical that Bocanegra comes through on Wednesday.
If not, the U.S. could be in desperate straits.
Roger Espinoza, Honduras
A bit of a rising name of late with his move to Wigan Athletic, Espinoza should play an integral role for Honduras on Wednesday. It will likely be Espinoza who is tasked with taking on Michael Bradley for much of the match in the midfield, and Honduras will need to mitigate the United States star's effect in the middle.
Bradley is an expert passer and is almost always at the forefront of the United States' attack. Donovan won't be there on the wings on Wednesday to drive into the teeth of Honduras' defense, but just about every other notable name for the USMNT will be on the pitch.
That means how Espinoza fares against Bradley will likely dictate a great deal of the United States' success getting strong goal opportunities. Espinoza is a quick, aggressive player who can even get himself into trouble by being overzealous. He's already drawn three yellow cards in four matches with Wigan, but has also caused opposing defenders to foul him quite frequently as well.
Espinoza is a "gift and curse" type player in most matches. Whichever side of the coin he lands on Wednesday may ultimately be the difference between a hard-fought, down-to-the-wire match or a blowout victory for the United States.
Clint Dempsey, United States
While Dempsey had an extremely rough start to the 2012-13 season over in the Premier League, it seems like the new calendar year has been a welcomed change for the USMNT forward. Dempsey has scored five goals in seven matches since the ball dropped after trudging his way through a 10-game scoreless streak toward the end of 2012.
It's been a welcomed change for Tottenham, who have lost just one match in 2013 thanks in part to Dempsey's ascent. The United States will undoubtedly look for Dempsey to have a similar effect on Wednesday, where they will look start out the Hexagonal with a strong goal differential.
Dempsey has been the United States' most consistent scorer throughout qualifying with three goals in his last four matches, and he even has some recent history on his side.
The last time the United States and Honduras faced off, Dempsey scored the match's only goal in the 36th minute, spurring his side to a 1-0 victory.
Dempsey's country will once again need his creativity to be at optimum levels this time around. The United States is no longer at the point where it can survive a defeat against a less-talented team, and Dempsey is their best goal-scoring hope.
He'll be joined by just about all the non-Donovan stars the United States has to offer, but Klinsmann and Dempsey both know who will shoulder the burden on Wednesday.