How Can the US Advance in the World Cup?

Fans in Grant Park celebrate a goal by the U.S. against Portugal in Group G.
Fans in Grant Park celebrate a goal by the U.S. against Portugal in Group G. –Getty Images

There’s no way to look at the way the US drew a 2-2 tie with Portugal Sunday night as a good thing, but it’s not all bad for the Americans, either. The US still controls its own destiny in Group G, which is more than a lot of very good teams can say at this point. The following are the scenarios in which the US can advance to the knockout stage, and ways they can’t.

Ways the Americans can advance:

— If the US wins: This is the easiest way of course. Beat Germany and the US is in.


— If the US and Germany tie: If the US ties Germany Thursday, both teams move on. This has led to speculation that both teams may just sit on the ball and try to advance, but the incentive to winning the group outright is a better matchup in the knockout stage.

— If the US loses and Portugal wins narrowly: Portugal has a minus-4 goal differential to the US at the moment, so even a Portugal win doesn’t vault them ahead of the Americans unless they make up that gap.

Ways the Americans can be knocked out:

— If the US loses and Ghana wins: If the Americans lose and Ghana wins by anything more than a goal, that’s it for us. If we lose by one and Ghana wins by one, it will come down to goals scored. The US has a 4-3 edge in that department at the moment.

— If the US loses and Portugal wins big: It would take something like a 4-0 Portugal win over Ghana and a 2-0 US loss to Germany to make this scenario a reality.

— Overall: Tiebreakers come into play only if the US loses to Germany and either Ghana or Portugal win. The first tiebreaker is goal difference, then goals scored, then head-to-head play. Taking all of these things into account, the US has a 76 percent chance to advance to the Round of 16, according to


This guy charted out all 209 permutations for the US advancing, but who has time for that?

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