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USA's World Cup fate still uncertain after tying Portugal

The USA soccer team controls its World Cup destiny after June 22. Before the World Cup started, the Americans would have killed to be one win or tie with Germany away from advancing after two games. Yet the USA could have settled its destiny and advanced already, if it had held for 20 more seconds against Portugal on June 22 -- but because it didn't, everyone from Group G still has a chance to advance.

Dempsey, Klinsmann may still need help to advance
Dempsey, Klinsmann may still need help to advance
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After the 2-2 tie between the Americans and the Portuguese, Germany and America have four points each while Portugal and Ghana trail with one. The Germans hold the goal differential tiebreaker over the Americans by a wide margin, thanks to their 4-0 win over the Portuguese on June 16. This is also why Ghana is in third place in Group G.

All four teams will have their World Cup fate settled in some way on June 26, as Germany faces the U.S. and Ghana takes on Portugal. If the Americans and Germans tie each other and finish with five points, it won't matter what the Portuguese and Ghanaians do. But if someone wins that match, the loser will need help.

The worst World Cup tie in USA soccer history won't matter if the Americans upset or tie Germany, or only lose by one goal. Because the U.S. has a +1 goal differential and Portugal maintains a -4, a tight American loss to the Germans and a tight Portuguese win should still put America in the knockout round. Yet since Ghana only has a -1 goal differential, a close American loss could doom them if Ghana beats Portugal by two goals, or ends up scoring more overall goals in the tournament.

Even though Portugal saved itself by the slimmest of margins, it still needs a lot of help. What it truly needs is a blowout victory over Ghana and for someone in the U.S. and Germany match -- most likely the Americans -- to get blown out. Given how the USA had its heart broken like never before in its soccer history, a bad loss to the powerful Germans is very possible.

With just a few more seconds of defense, the Americans would have only needed a win or tie to take Group G. Instead, USA soccer fans have to study many more tiebreakers, while hoping they won't be necessary after all.