(Reuters) – The United States face undefeated Uruguay on Monday with their backs to the wall and may well need a victory to avoid an embarrassing Copa America group stage elimination on home soil.

A loss or draw against the 15-times Copa America champions in Kansas City, Missouri, would leave Gregg Berhalter’s U.S. side requiring help from the result in the other Group C match between Bolivia and Panama to reach the quarter-finals.

“We believe in this group,” said Berhalter. “It’s a strong team. I think if we stay focused and stick to and execute a game plan, we’ll be OK.”

After two games the U.S., who have reached the knockout stage twice in four Copa America appearances, are level on three points with Panama, but ahead of them on goal difference.

The U.S. result against Uruguay in their final group game must match or better Panama’s result against Bolivia.

For the Americans anything short of making the knockout stage two years before they co-host the World Cup with Mexico and Canada would not only put pressure on Berhalter but likely prompt an evaluation of the entire U.S. men’s programme.

“We have to go and play the best game of our lives, and that’s it. We want to go, we want to win, and we want to continue in the competition,” said U.S. forward Christian Pulisic.

Making things more difficult for the Americans is that they will be without winger Tim Weah, who struck defender Roderick Miller in the head off the ball during his team’s 2-1 loss to lower-ranked Panama last Thursday.

Weah received a red card in the 18th minute, resulting in an automatic one-game suspension that was extended to two matches by South American soccer’s governing body CONMEBOL.

Now Berhalter must find a way to help his squad secure passage to the knockout stage or else he will surely face the same questions about his future as U.S. head coach that he was forced to answer after the defeat by Panama.

“If we don’t qualify for the next round, should my job be in the line?” said Berhalter. “That’s not for me to determine.”

Uruguay began the Copa America with a 3-1 win over Panama before cruising to a 5-0 triumph over Bolivia that gave them control of the group.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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