How the U.S. Can Advance in the World Cup Today: The Easy(ish) Guide

Clint Dempsey of the United States scores his team's second goal past Beto of Portugal during the 2014 FIFA World Cup match at Arena Amazonia on June 22, 2014 in Manaus, Brazil. Photographer: Christopher Lee/Getty Images

Update: The U.S. advances despite 0-1 loss to Germany.

If the U.S. advances out of group play today, it will be the second World Cup in a row in which the team moves moves to the knockout round of 16. That would be a record for the red-white-and-blues.

Bloomberg Sports give the U.S. a 77 percent chance of success, but deciding winners in group play can be complicated. Here’s a quick guide on how the U.S. can do it:

1. By beating Germany. This would be an upset against one of the world’s highest-rated teams, but the U.S. is playing very well in the tournament so far.

2. By tying Germany. Unlike the later games in the World Cup, where tied matches go into overtime and ultimately a shootout, group-round games can end in a tie. That’s not necessarily the most satisfying result for Americans raised on baseball, American football and basketball, but in this case, a tie is a win.

3. If Ghana and Portugal tie. If that happens, the U.S. will advance no matter the outcome of the match with Germany.

Related: How to Watch World Cup Soccer in the U.S. for Free

4. By losing to Germany and… well, here’s where it gets complicated. If the U.S. loses today, it will come down to total goal differentials: the total number of goals a team has scored in group play minus the total number of goals given up. Here’s the current goal differential before today's play:

  • Germany: +4
  • U.S.: +1
  • Ghana: -1
  • Portugal: -4

Win by Goal Differential: If the U.S. loses by one point, and Portugal wins by three points or less, the U.S. advances. (Also if the U.S. loses by two points and Portugal wins by two or less, or if the U.S. loses by three and Portugal wins by one.) Ghana is the bigger threat; the team cannot be beat on goal differentials alone if the U.S. loses and Ghana wins.

Win by Total Goals: If the goal differentials end in a tie (for example, if the U.S. loses by one and Ghana wins by one), then it will come down to total goals scored thus far in the tournament. Here’s the total goal count before today’s play:

  • Germany: 6
  • U.S.: 4
  • Ghana: 3
  • Portugal: 2

Head-to-head: If the U.S. and Ghana tie on goals, the U.S. advances because the team won in the earlier head-to-head face-off.

Game of Straws: In the unlikely scenario that goals fail to decide the two teams that will advance out of group play, the winner may be chosen by drawing straws. Talk about unsatisfying. Fortunately, Americans have a much longer history of picking straws than winning soccer. The modern drinking straw was invented by a bourbon-drinking American -- clearly an auspicious sign.

-With assistance from Mason Levinson in New York.

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