Senegal vs. Cape Verde

Tuesday, 11 a.m. (beIN Sports, beIN Sports Español)

Jamiro Monteiro’s Cape Verde is in the Africa Cup of Nations knockout stages for just the second time in its history, and opponents don’t come bigger than star-studded Senegal. We’ll see if all the big names play: goalkeeper Edouard Mendy (Chelsea), centerback Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli), midfielder Idrissa Gana Gueye (Paris Saint-Germain) and forward Sadio Mané (Liverpool).

It would be an upset if Cape Verde wins, but it wouldn’t be too surprising. Senegal hasn’t looked great so far. Its group stage games were a 1-0 win and two scoreless ties, and the lone goal came on a 97th-minute Mané penalty kick in the opener.

The world will be watching to see if Senegal can get into high gear now. And Union sporting director Ernst Tanner will be watching two of his proteges play each other. Seven years before he brought Monteiro to Philadelphia, he brought Mané to Salzburg — coincidentally from the same club where he found Monteiro, France’s Metz.

Also Tuesday: Morocco vs. Malawi, 2 p.m. (beIN Sports, beIN Sports Español)

» READ MORE: Union close to signing Mikael Uhre, a Danish striker who would be the big-time forward that’s long been craved

Ivory Coast vs. Egypt

Wednesday, 11 a.m. (beIN Sports, beIN Sports Español)

Here’s the most star-studded game of AFCON’s round of 16. Franck Kessié (AC Milan), Nicolas Pépé (Arsenal), and Sebastian Haller (Ajax) lead Ivory Coast against Egypt’s all-world striker Mo Salah (Liverpool).

Also Wednesday: Mali vs. Equatorial Guinea, 2 p.m. (beIN Sports, beIN Sports Español)

Australia vs. Thailand

Thursday, 9 a.m. (Paramount+)

The women’s Asian Cup got underway in India on Thursday, doubling as qualification for next year’s World Cup. Australia doesn’t have to worry about qualifying as a World Cup co-host with New Zealand. But Sam Kerr and the Matildas are trying to win the continental crown for the second time in their history, having not done so since 2010.

» READ MORE: More games to watch in the Asian Cup

Jamaica vs. Mexico

Thursday, 7 p.m. (CBS Sports Network, Telemundo 62, Universo, Paramount+)

Now attention turns to the biggest games for this column: the resumption of Concacaf men’s World Cup qualifying.

Back in September, Andre Blake and Jamaica were only a few minutes away from a stunning 1-1 tie at the Azteca before Mexico snatched a late winning goal. Neither team has forgotten that, and the memories will be front and center as they meet in Kingston this week.

If Jamaica can get a result, the Reggae Boyz will be right in the thick of the chase for fourth place. Across the field, Mexico manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino is under heaps of pressure from fans and media solely because El Tri isn’t in first place.

It’s a near certainty that Mexico will qualify, because four of its five games after this one are at home. The only road game left is at last-place Honduras. But a slip-up here will make that pressure even more of a distraction.

» READ MORE: Venezia aiming to sign U.S. national team striker Jordan Pefok

United States vs. El Salvador

Thursday, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2, UniMás, TUDN, ESPN+)

Some advice for anyone hoping to see fluid, technical soccer from the U.S. during the three games of this FIFA window: don’t get your hopes up.

It’s not just that World Cup qualifying games are rarely pretty, as even newly-minuted U.S. national team fans should know by now. All the games in this set will be played in frigid conditions, starting with this one in the traditional American soccer fortress of Columbus, Ohio. The game was taken there to prepare for even colder weather in Canada on Sunday.

The good news is that a lot of U.S. players are in outstanding form right now, especially midfielders Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, and Yunus Musah — the last of whom scored an outstanding goal for Valencia against Atlético Madrid on Saturday. And on Sunday, Sergiño Dest played his first full game for Barcelona since Dec. 4 in a (rather ugly) 1-0 win over Alavés.

You should also know that this game is the last in this cycle for which ESPN has broadcast rights. Fox will have the English broadcasts of the final two home games, Feb. 2 vs. Honduras and March 27 vs. Panama; and CBS has all the road games in English for Paramount+.

That means it’s the last U.S. men’s World Cup qualifier ESPN will televise for a long time, assuming (as everyone does) that the 2026 hosts will get automatic berths.

Thursday’s game will be the U.S. men’s team’s 130th World Cup qualifier since ESPN went on the air in 1979, and the 84th that ESPN has televised. The first was on May 15, 1985, a 1-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago at the old Busch Stadium in St. Louis. There has been a lot of history made in front of ESPN cameras since then, and there’s one more chapter to come.

» READ MORE: Q&A: ESPN’s Martín Ainstein on Sergiño Dest, Yunus Musah, and biking around Spain to tell stories of La Liga

Honduras vs. Canada

Thursday, 8 p.m. (Paramount+, TelemundoDeportes.com)

Get this game on a second screen if you can to scout the U.S.’ next two opponents. Canada is in first place and Honduras is in last, but Canada will be without two key players: defensive midfielder Stephen Eustáquio (COVID-19) and superstar left back Alphonso Davies (myocarditis after COVID-19).

You might also see why Sunday’s U.S.-Canada game is in Hamilton, Ontario (an hour from Toronto) instead of Vancouver, where it was originally going to be. Canada manager John Herdman wanted shorter trips to and from his home game, so it was moved off the west coast.

Had the game stayed in Vancouver, the U.S. would have hosted El Salvador in Portland, Ore., bringing a World Cup qualifier to the soccer-mad Rose City for the first time since 1997; and Honduras in San Jose, Calif.

The El Salvador game also would have been on ESPN instead of ESPN2, as ESPN held a 9 p.m. ET time slot open for the occasion. But once the venue changed, so did the time slot, and the TV channel had to as well. ESPN has a marquee Mississippi-South Carolina women’s college basketball game at 7 p.m.

» READ MORE: USMNT roster for January World Cup qualifiers is about how many players are on it, not just which ones

Costa Rica vs. Panama

Thursday, 9 p.m. (Universo, Paramount+)

This is the night’s biggest game continent-wide. If fifth-place Costa Rica wins, it will close the gap behind fourth-place Panama to two points. If Panama wins, the Ticos and the rest of the field will have a big hill to climb.

Current standings: 1. Canada (16 points), 2. United States (15), 3. Mexico (14, +4 goal difference), 4. Panama (14, +2), 5. Costa Rica (9), 6. Jamaica (7), 7. El Salvador (6), 8. Honduras (3)