A backdoor victory

Brazil Soccer WCup US GermanySo for those of you keeping track at home, the United States Men’s National Team competing in the FIFA World Cup this year, lost their match against Germany, but somehow the team still advances to the next round.

That may sound confusing to some sports fans, how a team competing in a competition could lose and still advance to the next round, but it all makes sense to those who follow. Not to be more confusing though, their last game against Portugal ended up in a 2-2 draw, had fans deflated as any other loss would have done, but following this actual loss against the Germans found fans as pleased as any other victory. Again, somehow it all makes sense.

In their group, the U.S. went up against Portugal last Sunday with a chance to advance regardless the outcome of any further games. After being down by an early goal from the Portuguese, the American team battled back to a 2-1 lead which they carried late until virtually the last seconds of the game. Whether they got lazy, overconfident or perhaps just dumb luck from their opponents, Portugal tied the game just before the final whistle and the game ended in a tie.

So close, but now they’d have to win their next game to make it to the next round, right? Not exactly.

Each team had different scenarios in order for them to go on. A win for the U.S. would have assured them a way in, but another tie with Germany would have work for both teams to make it to the round of 16. A loss though, would have placed their fate in the hands of a whole other game between Ghana and their previous opponent Portugal.

Ghana posed a threat to the U.S. in that scenario, as they too had a chance to advance if they won. Even though the U.S. beat Ghana in the onset of the tournament, a win by them would have given them the second tiebreaker. Alas, one of the world’s best players (who just happens to play for Portugal by the way) did the Americans a favor and scored a goal over Ghana and sent the Americans a “win”.

That’s good news for our country who up until now has had on average a mild interest in the sport. Its no secret that soccer, or Association Football, is the world’s most premiere sport, but it hasn’t garnered as much attention here in the States. But whether its a sense of nationalism or interest in global competition in sports, its starting to get a foothold.

The USMNT’s last game against Portugal was a perfect storm for ratings. A win and they’re automatically in, it was on a Sunday, late afternoon/early evening start time, going against one of the best players in the world. At 24.7 million viewers, more people watched that game than those who watched the BCS National Champtionship game, any NCAA Final Four game, Game 5 of the NBA Finals, any of the Stanley Cup Finals and any World Series game last year. In fact, over the past year, anything other than the NFL and the Olympics were not as watched as the  game between the United States and Portugal.

US mens soccerIt’s too early to tell how well-viewed the game between the U.S. and Germany was to the American public, but it would likely be on the same level as the previous match. Now that the Americans have survived the “Group of Death” a victory in the next round over Belgium would send ratings and this country to a level where we’ve only seen the team make it to twice in history.

And to those unfamiliar, don’t worry, it gets less confusing from here. This upcoming game in the “Knockout Round” is a win-or-go home type territory that we’re all familiar with in our sports spectating. So you can no longer use the, “oh they loss but they still go to the next round???” as a further excuse not to watch.

Not for nothin, but shouldn’t thousands of NFC East fans should be used to the whole idea of losing, but still making it to the playoffs. Works the same way.

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