By getting out of the incredibly difficult Group G, the U.S. men’s national team has ensured that its 2014 World Cup will go down as a success.
Qualifying for the Round of 16 was always the goal for Jurgen Klinsmann, and the coach called it “a huge achievement” after a 1-0 loss to Germany sent his team through.
Everything else is icing on the cake at this point.
That being said, now that the USMNT is into the knockout rounds it has a real shot to have its best World Cup campaign of the modern era.
The Round of 16 game against Belgium is a huge opportunity. Belgium is a good team. They’re exciting and young and littered with players at Champions League clubs.
But they’re not an international soccer blue blood. In fact, they’re the 2nd-weakest team that U.S. could have played in the Round of 16, according to Nate Silver’s SPI Index.
By finishing second in Group G, the U.S. has to play a 1st-ranked team from another group.
Here are the eight group winners ranked by SPI (with Silver’s U.S. odds of beating them in parentheses):
- Brazil (8.3%)
- Argentina (20.2%)
- Germany (22.5%)
- Colombia (27.9%)
- France (28.3%)
- Netherlands (27.8%)
- Belgium (41.6%)
- Costa Rica (53.6%)
Belgium and Costa Rica are a full tier below those other six teams. The U.S. has twice as good a chance at beating them than beating Germany.
While the U.S. is still an underdog here, it would only be a moderate upset if they won, not an earth-shattering one.
American soccer is steadily improving and expectations are steadily rising. It stands to reason that there will a day when getting to the quarterfinals of the World Cup isn’t a historic achievement for the the USMNT. A generation from now, the 2014 World Cup team will not be looked at as one of the most talented U.S. teams of all time.
But you never know what can happen in a World Cup. The U.S. could have a better team in 2018, and still lose early by getting unlucky in the group stage or running up against Brazil in the Round of 16.
Getting out of the group of death and making a run to the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup would probably top the 2002 quarterfinal appearance as the best achievement in U.S. soccer history. The Belgium game is a great chance to make that happen.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.