Could USMNT Still Play At World Cup 2018? Watch Panama 'Ghost Goal' Video

To miss out on the World Cup because you tried your best and the other team, other teams, were more skilled and hungrier and generally better than you? That's fair enough. Sore, but fair.

The United States had countless chances to ensure safe passage to Russia next year through ten games of qualifying. Even in the decisive defeat to Trinidad and Tobago the USMNT outshot their hosts, and squandered opportunities. Bruce Arena's team has only itself to blame. And despite the sheer joy of Panama qualifying for a World Cup for the first time, it is a damned shame that Christian Pulisic isn't going to grace a major international tournament for at least four years.

Maybe it hurts more, though, when you know you deserved to go out and go through at the same time. Losing to Trinidad and Tobago suggests the USMNT has no business going to Russia but when on Wednesday evening Panama scored an equalizing goal against Costa Rica that sent a country into paroxysms of rapture, things get tricky because the goal never should have counted.

What a mess it was, too. From a corner kick, the ball struck Gabriel Torres on the behind, then the post, then the shoulder of Panama striker Blas Perez. Then Ronald Mattarita, the Costa Rica defender, hacked at it, then it struck Perez again, and it squirted out the other side of the post.

Estados Unidos se queda fuera del Mundial por un gol de Panamá que ni entró

— Joaquín López-Dóriga (@lopezdoriga) October 11, 2017

And it was given, and Panama went on to win, and the USMNT went out, and, and, and. If, if, if. CBS, for one, asked—pleaded, maybe—for a way to overturn the decision. "As far as I know there is no recourse. Decisions of the referee are final," read a statement from U.S. Soccer press officer Michael Kammarman, quoted by the network, when they queried whether there might be an appeal to CONCACAF, the governing body for soccer in North and Central America.

There could be—the U.S. has 21 days to decide whether to take a case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which can hear appeals over referees' decisions that directly affect the complaining party. Precedent isn't kind, though. Ireland made an official complaint to FIFA in 2009, after a clear Thierry Henry handball denied it a place at the World Cup in South Africa the next summer. That match was never replayed, and France, not Ireland, went to the tournament.

For U.S. Soccer, and U.S. soccer, much more likely is a four-year stretch spent peering deep into a wounded soul.