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How can the U.S. advance? We walk through the scenarios … All of them

Jun 22, 2014, 8:46 PM EST

The United States was seconds away from reaching the six-point plateau for the first time in the team’s group stage history, but thanks to Silvestre Valera’s 95th minute equalizer, a place in the knockout round is still slightly out of reach. Though the 2-2 draw leaves them tied atop Group G with Germany at the 2014 World Cup, the team may still need a result on Thursday to the second round.

Then again, they may not. If things break in the U.S.’s favor in the group’s finales, the team may already have enough points to make the final 16. Ahead of Thursday’s match against the Germans in Recife, here are the scenarios that will lead the U.S. out of Group G:

(Group standings, in points and goal difference: Germany, 4 pts., +4; United States, 4 pts. +1; Ghana, 1 pt., -1; Portugal, 1 pt., -4.)

If the United States beats Germany …

… they win Group G and face the second place team from Group H (currently Algeria).

If the United States draws with Germany …

… they finish second in Group G, behind the Germans. They’ll then face the winner of Group H (currently Belgium).

[ MORE: Valera equalizer stuns U.S. | Man of the Match rankings | Talking points ]
[ MORE: Soccerly covers the World Cup ]

If the United States loses to Germany, they still advance in second place if …

Warning: This is where it gets confusing.

1. Ghana and Portugal draw; or
2. Ghana beats Portugal (a) by only one goal, and (b) the U.S. loses by only one goal, and (c) Ghana doesn’t outscore the U.S. by two or more goals on the day; or
3. Portugal beats Ghana and fails to make up the five-goal gap in difference (see more, below).

Thanks to Portugal’s lopsided loss to Germany, the U.S. has a huge edge in that first, goal difference tiebreaker. Portugal would either have to blow out Ghana or benefit from the Germans routing the U.S.

Here are the scenarios — all of them — some of which involve the word “lots”:

  • If Germany beats the U.S. by five or more, Portugal only needs to beat Ghana to advance.
  • If Germany wins by four, Portugal advances if they beat Ghana at least two. If they win by one, Portugal can still advance if they end up with more total goals than the U.S. The Americans currently have four. Portugal has two. If the teams end up with the same number of goals, they’ll draw lots, leaving Group G’s second knockout round spot up to chance.
  • If Germany wins by three, Portugal advances if they win by three or more. Win by two: Total goals, then lots. Win by only one? They’re out.
  • If Germany wins by two, Portugal advanced if they win by four of more. Win by three: Goals and lots. Two or less: They’re done.
  • If Germany wins by one, Portugal advances with a  five-goal win. Four? Goals, lots. Three of fewer? Adeus.

[ MORE: Lots could decide Iran, Nigeria | Odds have U.S. going through ]
[ PST covers: World Cup | United States | Group G ]

Confused yet? This might make it easier. Here are the FIFA tiebreakers:

1. Goal difference in all group stage matches
2. Goals scored in all group stage matches
3. Points in matches between the tied teams
4. Goal difference in matches between the tied teams
5. Goals scored in matches between the tied teams
6. Draw lots

  1. mazblast - Jun 22, 2014 at 8:54 PM

    I hope it doesn’t come down to lots. I trust FIFA in “random” draws like we could trust David Stern in NBA lottery draws.

    One thing to remember–The Germans do have something for which to play. They’re not automatically through to the next round, although it would take both games being blowouts to knock them out.

    • tariencole - Jun 22, 2014 at 9:09 PM

      True, they do have something to play for.

      On the other hand, I smell a handshake game. The US can’t feel bad playing Belgium looking at the listless performances they’re putting in. Germany wins the group with a tie. Call me old-fashioned. But no one knows how to massage a favorable line like the Germans.

    • braxtonrob - Jun 22, 2014 at 10:44 PM

      @mazblast, I agree, … however, it can’t come down to lots, since we already beat Ghana, (tiebreaker #3).

      • wjarvis - Jun 23, 2014 at 12:09 AM

        it can with Portugal, though it’s really unlikely, Portugal needs to score two more goals against Ghana than the US scores vs Germany, and have the US lose by three. So for example if Germany wins 4-1 and Portugal wins 3-1, then both have 4 points, a -2 goal differential and 5 total goals for, so it would go to lots because of the result today.

      • wjarvis - Jun 23, 2014 at 1:23 AM

        I guess I should change the previous post a little, It is possible for Portugal to force the drawing of lots with other possibilities than just the US losing by three. Portugal needs to score two more goals against Ghana than the US scores against Germany and then the sum of goals between a German victory and Portugal victory needs to be 5 goals. So a 5-1 German victory and 3-2 Portugal win would work too.

  2. some1kj - Jun 22, 2014 at 9:37 PM

    All the US team had to do was to keep the ball and park the bus the last few minutes when they had to. Portugal was worse than average and had no business scoring in the final seconds of the game. 2 precious points thrown away!

    • odojoe - Jun 22, 2014 at 10:13 PM

      Idiot Goaltender kept kicking it right back to Portugal in the closing minutes instead of rolling to a teammate to kill time.

  3. bdh75gunner - Jun 22, 2014 at 9:41 PM

    Perhaps over a pint of hefeweizen the US and Germany agree to draw…

  4. hartfordhellions4ever - Jun 22, 2014 at 9:44 PM

    Thanks for posting this. Good to know they have a way forward. But dam ! So so close tonight. Haven’t been laid this low by the squad since the 2011 Gold Cup final.

  5. gopcongress - Jun 22, 2014 at 9:59 PM

    I actually think Ghana will steal this one from the USA. I do NOT see the US beating or tying Germany, even though both teams have an incentive to draw. Remember, it was Germany who instigated the reason that Game 3’s in groups start simultaneously, so there will be a lot of scrutiny on them.

    Having said that, I believe Germany will win by at least 2, so all Ghana will have to do is to win their match against Portugal. They are better apt to keeping Ronoldo out of play.

    US is not going to make the Sweet 16.

    • txbearmeat - Jun 22, 2014 at 10:15 PM

      Yep. Sad.

    • andrewdavidmitchell - Jun 22, 2014 at 10:39 PM

      I disagree. The US is in a strong position against a team which wins the group with just a draw. Germany has no incentive to blow out the US.

      Who would Germany rather see again in the knockout stages, Ghana or the US?

      • mikeymo74 - Jun 22, 2014 at 11:51 PM

        Germany has a big incentive: to ensure they win the group and to get some momentum back after the Ghana game. So they will be playing hard early. It’s true that if they go up by 2, they will sit back more, but that’s enough if Ghana win to send the US home. Also, Germany wouldn’t see Ghana or US until the final in the knockout stages and that’s unlikely to happen, so they probably don’t care. They’re more concerned about winning the group so they don’t play Belgium.

      • edmondprime - Jun 23, 2014 at 7:09 AM

        Ghana will qualify

    • edmondprime - Jun 23, 2014 at 7:06 AM

      Ghana has a chance of advancing aheap of USA. We all saw what they have done in this tournament. They are skillfull and they deserve it much more than our USA team that runs on luck

    • geoff21hi - Jun 23, 2014 at 11:10 AM

      That is a fairly fatalistic viewpoint. They are still absolutely favored to advance out of the group. Also, Portugal has everything to play for as well, it’s not like they are going to lay down and let Ghana run all over the field. Plus they will have a more fit Ronaldo, and Pepe will be back.

    • coachdancox - Jun 24, 2014 at 7:18 AM

      I disagree. The US has out played both Ghana and Portugal. A mental lapse and as unlucky a break gave Portugal their first goal and a mental lapse against the greatest player in the game today gave up the second. You will not see that type of mental lapse in this game. Germany wins by one goal, and something you do not normally see, a Portugal team trying to score an obscene number of goals. The mindset of most soccer matches is to win by one unless you are trying to prove something special. Portugal is going to play tough. I think Renaldo breaks out of his slump and Ghana will try to stop him, will get physical, draw a Red and have to play with ten men.

  6. jasjbb - Jun 22, 2014 at 10:01 PM

    Uhhhhh, what was the question?

  7. LIBERAL JUSTICE - Jun 23, 2014 at 12:48 AM

    We already know what the outcome will be…

    lost to the Europeans in Basketball
    lost to the Japanese in Baseball
    lost to the Canadians in Hockey
    lost to the Russians in the Olympics
    lost to the Chinese in Pingpong…

  8. renhoekk2 - Jun 23, 2014 at 9:07 AM

    Any team that let’s that happen in the final seconds doesn’t deserve to move on. No excuse what so ever. I could list the things that players did wrong that let that happen, but I won’t waste my time. If the US move on they should consider themselves lucky.

    • tridecagon - Jun 23, 2014 at 11:03 AM

      Go run around in the jungle for 2 hours and then see how good your decision making and composure is.

      Yes, they could have killed time better. But Portugal wasn’t going to just sit back and let them do it.

    • geoff21hi - Jun 23, 2014 at 11:08 AM

      So then Ghana shouldn’t advance either, since they did something worse in their first game. So lets just give it to portugal! Please. That’s such faulty logic. Every team that is at this tournament has had some lucky/unlucky bounces. That is soccer. The teams that survive are able to take the hits and keep on fighting…much like…this US team.

  9. edlf2014 - Jun 23, 2014 at 12:01 PM

    I wonder how many Team USA players are American born, how many of its players were imported to play for Team USA.

  10. reekerbreeker - Jun 23, 2014 at 12:33 PM

    There were good time killing plays at the end and bad ones. The one that I remarked upon at the time it happened, and it was right before the header goal, was when Bradley let the ball get away from him in midfield without any apparent effort. He chases the ball down, kicks it to the other end, and the game is over. Instead he nonchalantly let it go, it gets to Ronaldo, and the USA is faced with a nailbiter vs. Germany.

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