As far-fetched as it may seem, there is a path for the United States to reach the World Cup finals in 2022. Come to think of it, there are a handful of potential landing spots depending on how the playoff phase unfolds. groups.
The United States is in no way expected to enter the Final. Even then, the USMNT is certainly on the rise. CONCACAF Gold Cup and Nations League victories in 2021 bear witness to this. Additionally, the Americans finished third in World Cup qualifying despite injuries. This unfortunate trend could continue as the World Cup approaches.
Either way, the United States is something of a dark horse in the 2022 World Cup. A young squad with the majority of its players playing in their first World Cup is not a recipe for success. However, they are a talented team with many players now featuring at top foreign clubs such as Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Juventus and many more. For the majority of projected team names, this is a competitive game against teams outside of North America.
These early games include Wales, Iran and one of the tournament favourites, England. These group stage matches will be the starting point on the United States’ path to the World Cup final.
You can play the game and make your own simulations for the World Cup using our World Cup predictor. Find out the round of 16 fixtures based on the results of each match in the group stage, including tiebreakers where applicable. Be sure to share your bracket and knockout stages in the comments.
USA’s path to the World Cup final
Of course, if the United States finishes third or fourth after the round robin group stage games, the road to the World Cup final is quite short. In other words, it does not exist. Therefore, for our purposes, we will look at what can happen if the United States finishes second or first in the group.
Also, keep in mind that there are far too many permutations of who the United States could play in each round of the Round of 16. Depending on how the group stage plays out, there could be any choice of nation that the United States will play in the final knockout stages.
That being said, there are some similarities. The runner-up from Group B faces the winner of Group A in the round of 16. Therefore, the runner-up in Group A faces the winner of Group B in the same round. There are connections for Groups A and B, Groups C and D, Groups E and F, and Groups G and H in the Round of 16, and more as the knockout stage progresses .
The easiest way to the final
Let’s start with wishful thinking. The United States finished top of Group B. English fans, don’t worry. The English still reach the round of 16 in the shadow of the USMNT. The USA, as the group winners, face the runners-up in Group A. Safe to say the Netherlands finish top of this group if all goes as planned. The second would then be Ecuador, Qatar or Senegal. No easy matches, but certainly winnable matches for the United States. The Americans beat Qatar in the 2021 Gold Cup.
So, we will say that the United States has the task of sending the hosts of Qatar home. Gregg Berhalter’s side clinched their ticket to the quarter-finals for the first time in 20 years.
The quarter-finals could get sticky. The Round of 16 between the winner of Group D and the runners-up in Group C could easily be France v Argentina. Just as easily, it could be Denmark versus Mexico. None of these teams is left out. In this simplest case, let’s say that the United States plays the winner of Denmark against Mexico. Maybe France slipped up and finished second in this group. It’s another winning match. If it’s Mexico, then the United States has a great track record of success over the past 16 months. However, Denmark are one of the tournament’s outside contenders. The United States put on a solid performance and reached the semi-finals.
The other quadrant of the range is Nightmare Fuel. If we base who wins and finishes second on the betting odds entering the World Cup, here are the other four teams on the American side of the table:
Germany finish second in Group E, Belgium win Group F, Switzerland are second in Group G and Portugal top Group H. Now could a Costa Rica, Canada or Ghana mix it all up ? Absolutely. In fact, it might happen. However, keeping some form of realism, let’s say that the United States must face Germany, Belgium, Switzerland or Portugal in the semi-finals.
These teams are all in the top 16 of the official FIFA World Rankings. The easiest is probably Switzerland, which has a knack for playing spoilers at major tournaments (see Euro 2020 round of 16 against France). At this stage of the tournament, much depends on fate. The United States might as well beat each of these teams as they might lose 4-0. However, it is a legitimate chance to reach the World Cup final.
worst case scenario
Pump the USMNT brakes for one minute.
In the worst-case scenario of Group B, we will say that the United States finishes second. While it doesn’t matter, we’ll say it played out in the final minutes just to give USMNT fans a little extra stress they surely love.
Many of those games line up on USA’s easier path to the World Cup final. Still, they are just the best team in the bunch. The round of 16 would pit the United States against the Netherlands. Virgil van Dijk, Memphis Depay, Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt are world-class talents, or at least have the potential to be. The greatness extends across the board for a country that failed to qualify for Russia 2018 and certainly has pent-up frustration and embarrassment.
But hey, one way or another, the United States beat the Netherlands. Their prize is a date against the winner of France and Argentina. Choose your poison. The Americans can face the reigning world champions who have the deepest squad in the world led by the fittest player on the planet in Karim Benzema as well as a PSG player named Kylian Mbappé. Or, the USMNT take on Argentina and Lionel Messi in what is likely to be the current PSG player’s final World Cup. By the way, Argentina are still on a ridiculous winning streak which includes the Copa America and Final on Italy.
If the United States can get past the Netherlands and either of these two teams, it will be the Cinderella Race of Cinderella Races at the World Cup. If the groups go a certain way, the next four teams could be just as difficult. For example, Brazil and Spain won their groups, as expected. Belgium and Portugal finish second, which in all honesty could easily happen. The United States plays the winner of any team emerging from the dogfight of Brazil, Spain, Belgium and Portugal. These are the top 10 teams in the world rankings, and at this point, as American fans, the United States is playing with house money.
I don’t mean to be pessimistic, but that sounds too far-fetched to be true. However, it would be the most special two weeks in American football history if half of that happened. Then, just for good measure, top it all off with a rematch against England in the World Cup final. Soccer come home.