The U.S. holds a two-point lead over Costa Rica and Mexico in the qualifying group in the 10-game final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region. They will host Honduras next Tuesday night in Sandy, Utah.
Boasting a squad including 10 English Premier League players, Belgium overpowered a U.S. team that has some work to do on defense before it can think about making the field for next year's World Cup in Brazil.
The 33-year-old Bocanegra, captain since 2007, has lost his starting job with Racing Santander in Spain's second division. He was in the U.S. squad for the 2-1 loss at Honduras last month in the final round of qualifying but didn't play.
The United States heads into World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica and Mexico with an inexperienced defense after dropping captain Carlos Bocanegra and learning eight players are injured or ill.
Clint Dempsey put the Americans ahead in the 36th minute but the Americans, using a new-look defense that featured Omar Gonzalez and Timmy Chandler, gave up the lead when Juan Carlos Garcia tied the score in the 40th at San Pedro Sula.
Clint Dempsey scored twice as the United States rallied to beat Guatemala 3-1 Tuesday night and reach the last round of continental qualifying for the World Cup.
The United States ended 75 years of frustration in Mexico, winning at its southern neighbor and regional revival for the first time Wednesday night when Michael Orozco Fiscal's goal in the 80th minute and Tim Howard's late sprawling saves provided a 1-0 victory.
For nearly three years, D.C. United's inability to win back-to-back matches has been a fitting symbol for the club's maddening inconsistency, as well as a sore subject for players, coaches and fans alike.