Here Are All the Ways the United States Can Advance in the World Cup

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Team USA, World Cup
Team USA, World Cup REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

On Thursday, the United States play Germany in the World Cup, and it's a big game. You might even call it a big, super, mega, King Kong game. Because this is the game that will decide if the U.S. will move on to the next round of the World Cup or not.

It's a big deal (maybe even a big, super, mega, King Kong deal) for the U.S. to make it to the top 16 because no one believed they would make it out of their group, aka the Group of Death. But they've been surprising the world with their performance, and all eyes are on them tomorrow.

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Due to the way the first round is set up, there are many different ways the U.S. could move on, so for your convenience, we've broken them all down for you:

How the U.S. Advances:

1. A win against Germany
2. A draw with Germany

If the game ends in a tie, then both teams move on to the next round. Some people believe that teams in this situation will make a deal and intentionally tie each other to ensure their advancements. But the U.S. coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, insists they don't want to tie Germany. They want to win.

Now, if the United States loses, then their fate is up to the Ghana-Portugal game, which is being played at the same time. 

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How the U.S. Advances With a Loss Against Germany:

1. Portugal and Ghana tie
2. Portugal beats Ghana by very few goals, but this scenario depends on how many goals Germany scores against the U.S.
3. Ghana beats Portugal by no more than one goal. Again, this scenario depends on how many goals the U.S. give up against Germany. The chart below can help lay out all the possible scenarios, and there are over 200 of them:

4. If the U.S. ties with Ghana or Portugal in points and goal differential, the tiebreaker will be total goals scored. The U.S. has scored four goals in the first two games, so this scenario would once again depend on how many goals each team scores in their final round one games.

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5. If for some crazy reason two teams are still tied in second place after all of that, here are the official FIFA tiebreakers:

  • Greatest number of points obtained in all group matches. 
  • Goal difference in all group matches. 
  • Greatest number of goals scored in all group matches. 
  • Greatest number of points obtained in the group matches between the teams concerned. 
  • Goal difference resulting from the group matches between the teams concerned. 
  • Greater number of goals scored in all group matches between the teams concerned. 
  • Drawing of lots by the FIFA Organizing Committee.

Phew! That's a lot of scenarios. But to make it simple, let's just hope that the United States either wins or ties against Germany. And if they lose against Germany, cross your fingers for a Ghana-Portugal draw. After that, it's a whole mess of goal differential and points.

And now we've gone cross-eyed. Oh, well. Go 'Merica!

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