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World Cup tiebreakers: How to figure out who needs what to advance

Update: Here's how the U.S. can advance. Figuring out which teams will advance out of the group stages can sometimes be confusing. Here's the rules FIFA uses to deal with ties.

SB Nation's 2014 World Cup Bracket'

Thanks to there just being one round of games between each of the four teams in each World Cup group, ties are not only a possibility, but a pretty frequent occurrence. Since FIFA knows this, they're prepared with a set of rules to help determine which team finishes where should they end up even on points with another team, or teams.

Portugal scores stunner

Here's the list of tiebreakers that FIFA would use. They start with the first scenario, and go down the list until one of the rules breaks the tie.

  • Greatest number of points obtained in all the group matches.
  • Goal difference in the group matches.
  • Greatest number of goals scored in the group matches.
  • Head to head result

How the U.S. gets through

Almost every time, ties will be broken by one of those four rules. However, should the teams remained tied, FIFA has more tiebreakers.

  • Goal difference resulting from the group matches between the teams concerned.
  • Greater number of goals scored in all group matches between the teams concerned.
  • Drawing of lots by the FIFA Organizing Committee.

That's right, in the insanely unlikely scenario that five different tiebreakers fail to separate two teams, FIFA will break the tie by essentially drawing straws. Could you imagine what would happen if this tiebreaker had to be utilized? The losing team would be outraged, but thankfully, it's unlikely to ever happen.

This tiebreaker system is completely different from the UEFA Champions League, which uses head-to-head record and other head-to-head tiebreakers before getting to goal differential in all group matches.