What's at stake in Thursday's pivotal United States-Germany game? A berth in the knockout round, for one. There are a few scenarios that would see the U.S. in the knockout round and ESPN's Soccer Power Index gives the Americans a 76 percent chance of advancing.
Here are five storylines heading into Thursday's final Group G game for the Americans (11 a.m. ET on ESPN).
United States advances with a win or a draw, as would Germany with the same result. If Portugal and Ghana draw, both Germany and United States advance. The loser of the Germany-United States game will advance by winning the tiebreaker with the winner of the Portugal-Ghana game, if there is one.
The U.S. seeks to reach the knockout round in consecutive World Cups for the first time. The Americans can go unbeaten in their three group stage matches for the second straight World Cup, having never done that prior to 2010. The last World Cup was the second time the U.S. had won its World Cup group and the first time since the 1930 tournament.
Can the World Cup drama possibly continue for the Americans? The past five U.S. World Cup games all featured late goals:
- 2014 Group Stage (June 22): United States 2, Portugal 2: Clint Dempsey's 81st-minute goal put the United States up 2-1, but Varela's header off Cristiano Ronaldo's only cross of the game earned Portugal a draw in the fifth minute of added time.
- 2014 Group Stage (June 16): United States 2, Ghana 1: Clint Dempsey scored 34 seconds into the match (fastest in American history), and defender John Brooks scored the game-winning goal in the 86th minute, the first American substitute to score at a World Cup.
- 2010 Round of 16 (June 26): Ghana 2, United States 1 (F/ET): A 62nd-minute penalty kick by Landon Donovan sent the game into extra time before Asamoah Gyan's left-footed strike in the 93rd minute proved to be the eventual game-winning goal.
- 2010 Group Stage (June 23): United States 1, Algeria 0: Needing a win to advance into the knockout stage, the United States was held scoreless for 90 minutes before a United States counterattack in the first minute of added time produced Landon Donovan's game-winning goal, the latest goal in United States World Cup history.
- 2010 Group Stage (June 18): United States 2, Slovenia 2: Down 2-0 at halftime, the United States responded with a Landon Donovan goal in the 48th minute and a Michael Bradley equalizer in the 82nd minute to draw with Slovenia, the first World Cup point earned by the U.S. when trailing at halftime.
The U.S. team is full of German-American connections, both on the field and on the sideline. Jurgen Klinsmann will be coaching against his home nation and the country he represented at the 1990, 1994 and 1998 World Cups. Klinsmann scored 11 goals for Germany in 17 World Cup matches. Only Miroslav Klose (15) and Gerd Muller (14) have more World Cup goals for Germany than Klinsmann did.
There are five German-Americans on U.S. roster, all sons of American servicemen and German mothers: Jermaine Jones, Fabian Johnson, John Brooks, Timmy Chandler and 19-year-old Julian Green.
The U.S. has its work cut out against one of the giants of world soccer. Germany has won its group at six straight World Cups and has reached a record 15 straight World Cup quarterfinals. If Germany loses to the U.S., it would be the second time it has lost to non-European opposition in a group stage game. Prior to drawing with Ghana in its second match this year, Germany had won 10 straight group stage matches against non-European opponents.