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USMNT's Tyler Adams on World Cup qualification: 'No other option'

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Will Berhalter play his strongest USMNT XI vs. Mexico or Panama? (2:26)

Herculez Gomez and Sebastian Salazar debate whether Gregg Berhalter will save his best USMNT XI for Panama. (2:26)

United States men's national team midfielder Tyler Adams said there is "no other option" but for the USMNT to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.

The USMNT seek to return to the World Cup after missing the 2018 tournament, with three crucial qualifying matches left -- at Mexico on Thursday, hosting Panama three days later at Orlando, Florida, and at Costa Rica on March 30.

- World Cup qualifying: CONCACAF standings
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"We have to qualify, there's no other option. I think that when you're in big games and important games you always have to remember what motivates you and what you're doing it for," Adams said at a news conference on Tuesday. "We're doing it for all the U.S. fans and we don't want to let down our nation."

Adams, who plays for Bundesliga side RB Leipzig, said he remembered watching the USMNT fail to qualify for 2018 World Cup. He pondered what could have been had that side reached Russia.

"I made my debut after that elimination, who knows if had we qualified if I would have been there," Adams said. "The group has a great responsibility -- qualifying for the World Cup, it's the absolute minimum, we have to do that to continue to move the program forward."

The top three sides in the eight-team CONCACAF standings will automatically qualify for Qatar 2022, and the fourth place side will play an intercontinental playoff. Canada lead with 25 points, with the U.S. and Mexico each on 21 points but the U.S. ahead on goal difference. Panama is fourth with 17 points, followed by Costa Rica with 16. El Salvador (nine), Jamaica (seven) and Honduras (three) have been eliminated.

Adams said the side welcomes the challenge of Thursday's match at Estadio Azteca, where Mexico holds a 6-0-3 record in qualifying against the USMNT and have a 9-1-2 home record overall against the Americans. However, the U.S. have defeated Mexico the last three times they met, including wins in the CONCACAF Nations League and Gold Cup finals, and a 2-0 win in a November qualifying match in Cincinnati.

Playing this match on Thursday 7,200 feet above sea level, Adams said both sides will feel the elevation.

"You don't have to the opportunity to play in that kind of altitude everday, you have to get through the first 10-15 minutes to grind it out. I've played there with the youth side, but not with a lot of fans, so I'm excited," Adams said.

Borussia Dortmund star Giovanni Reyna said he understands the challenge of playing at the iconic venue, having heard about it from his father Claudio, a former USMNT captain.

"I've heard about stories from my dad. I knew it was gonna be a tough game back in Denver [in the 2020 CONCACAF Nations League final] and every time we play them. They have a great crowd, great team so it's gonna be tough to play there. We're ready and excited," Reyna said of Azteca.

Reyna is returning to national team duty after battling a hamstring injury that kept him out action for over five months and only recently played a match for Dortmund. Nonetheless, the return of Reyna is a relief for Gregg Berhalter's side that will miss key players such as midfielder Weston McKennie (two broken bones in left foot), defender Sergino Dest (strained left thigh), goalkeeper Matt Turner (foot/ankle), and Brenden Aaronson (knee).

"I know I can help the group just with my playing and being here. We got really important games and our main goal is to go to the World Cup," Reyna said. "I'm definitely going to be managing my fitness, we're gonna be smart with it."