Here's Exactly What Has to Happen on Thursday For the U.S. to Advance


The United States' hopes of advancing to the knockout stage of the World Cup took a hit Sunday with a 2-2 draw with Portugal at the Arena da Amazônia in Manaus, Brazil.

The Americans had fought back from a goal down to take a 2-1 lead into stoppage time, but Portugal's Varela headed in a last-gasp equalizer off a gorgeous cross from Cristiano Ronaldo to salvage a draw.

The result leaves the U.S. tied with Germany atop Group G with one game left for all four teams. Both remaining games — U.S.-Germany and Portugal-Ghana — take place Thursday at 12 p.m. ET. Here's a look at the four ways the United States can finish among the top two and progress to the knockout stage.

1. With a win against Germany.

If the U.S. beats Germany, they'll finish atop the group with seven points. The Germans will finish in second place (four points) and almost certainly advance on goal difference thanks to their 4-0 win over Portgual in the group opener.

2. With a draw against Germany.

If the Americans and the Germans play to a draw, both teams will finish atop the group with five points apiece and advance to the next round no matter what.

This is where it gets interesting. Since a draw would be mutually beneficial for both the U.S. and Germany, many believe a complicit agreement for a draw could be in play. The fact that U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann is close friends with German manager Joachim Low is only stoking the conspiracy theories.

3. With a loss against Germany and a draw in the Portugal-Ghana game.

If the U.S. loses on Thursday, Germany wins the group with seven points and the Americans will finish with four points. Whether the U.S. advances will depend on the result of the Portugal-Ghana game. If Portugal and Ghana play to a draw, both will be eliminated (two points apiece) and the U.S. will advance.

4. With a loss against Germany and the tie-breaker over Portugal or Ghana.

Here's where it gets a little complicated.

If Portugal beats Ghana: The U.S. and Portugal will finish tied for second place (four points) and the U.S. will most likely go through on goal difference. However, if the combined margin of victory in Germany's win over the U.S. and the Portugal's win over the Ghana is five or more goals, then Portugal will advance on goal difference.

If Ghana beats Portugal: The U.S. and Ghana will finish tied for second place (four points apiece) and Ghana will most likely go through on goal difference. But if Germany and Ghana both win their games by 1-0 scores, the U.S. will advance due to their head-to-head goal difference against Ghana.

Here's a helpful visual aid for the murkier scenarios.

In 2010, the United States needed a last-minute goal to stave off elimination. On Sunday, they found themselves on the unenviable side of the drama, allowing a stoppage-time goal that kept Portugal in the tournament. But fortunately for the Americans, their chances of getting through are very much alive.