The road was rockier than expected, but the United States men's national team ultimately did enough to reach the CONCACAF Nations League semifinals.
The Americans, who've rebounded nicely from a surprising loss to Canada last month, closed out the group phase of Nations League play with a straightforward 4-0 win over Cuba on Tuesday.
With the result, Gregg Berhalter's team leapfrogged the Canadians for the top spot in Group A, joining fellow continental contenders Mexico, Honduras, and Costa Rica in the inaugural edition of the Nations League knockout round.
That mini-tournament, which features two single-elimination semifinals before another one-off clash crowns a champion, takes place in June.
The U.S. went into Tuesday's contest in the Cayman Islands knowing that only a win would be enough to secure first place in its three-team group, and didn't waste any time rising to the occasion.
Josh Sargent opened the scoring after just 36 seconds, bundling the ball over the line following a low cross from Paul Arriola.
Red-hot attacker Jordan Morris scored twice before the interval, including a calm finish from inside the area for his side's second tally of the night.
The 19-year-old Sargent then completed the rout in the 66th minute, racking up the first multi-goal game of his young international career.
The U.S. finishes the round level on nine points with Canada, beating out its northern neighbor by virtue of a superior plus-12 goal differential.