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U-17 MNT Scenarios

The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team may have struggled in their first two matches at the FIFA U-17 World Cup, but you’d be wrong to think there’s no way the U.S. can move on to the second round. With a victory against Belgium, the U.S. will at least finish in third place in Group E with three points and depending on how the chips fall in the other groups, that could be enough to secure one of the four third-place spots (out of six) in the Round of 16. (UPDATE -- A THIRD PLACE FINISH IS NOW GUARANTEED TO GET THE U.S. IN TO THE NEXT ROUND. SO WIN, AND THEY'RE IN!) Heck, with a little help from Tunisia, the U.S. could possibly even jump up to second place and solidify their spot in the second round. 

How is this possible? Well, we’ve got it all broken down below. And for those doubters out there who think it can’t be done…well, that’s just un-American.

How the U.S. Finishes Third in Group E by Defeating Belgium:

If the U.S. defeats Belgium, the two countries will be tied on points with three (3) each and tie-breakers will be used to determine their ranking in the group. Here are the first two tie-breakers:
     1) goal difference in all group matches
     2) greatest number of goals scored in all group matches

Right now, the U.S. is at -3 in goal differential, compared to -1 for Belgium, but they do have more goals scored with four (4) than Belgium at three (3). 

If the U.S. defeats Belgium by two goals or more, say 2-0, then they would advance on goal differential, beating out Belgium at -1 to -3.

If the U.S. wins by one goal, say 1-0, they will be tied on goal differential with Belgium at -2, but would be ranked ahead of Belgium with more goals scored at six to four.

A win of any magnitude secures the U.S. a third-place finish in the group. Depending on the results from the other groups, the U.S. could be one of the four third place teams out of six groups to advance to the second round.

How the U.S. Finishes Second in Group E by Defeating Belgium:

As you read above, the U.S. will at least finish in third place if they defeat Belgium due to the first two tie-breakers. To finish second, it would be in a similar fashion, but the U.S. needs Tunisia to not only win, but win by at least two goals (although it’s not as simple as that, as you’ll see).  

It gets a bit tricky, but to try and explain things we’ll imagine the U.S. defeats Belgium by a score of 1-0. With that result, the U.S. has three points with a -2 goal differential and five goals scored.

Going into their match against Tunisia, Tajikistan has three points with a 0 goal differential and four goals scored. If Tunisia were to defeat Tajikistan by the score of 3-0, then Tajikistan would end up with three points, a -3 goal differential and four goals scored.

The U.S. would then finish in second place due to the first tie-breaker (goal differential): -2 for the U.S. compared to -3 for Tajikistan.

If Tunisia were to defeat Tajikistan by the score of 2-0, then Tajikistan would end up with three points, a -2 goal differential and four goals scored.

The U.S. would also finish in second place due to the second tie-breaker (greatest number of goals scored) – five for the U.S. compared to four for Tajikistan.

Tunisia just needs to win by two goals then, right? Not quite. If Tunisia wins by two goals, but the score is 4-2, then Tajikistan would end up in second place, because while their goal differential would be the same as the U.S. (-2), they would now have more goals scored than the U.S. (six to five).

So, what happens if the U.S. wins and Tunisia wins, but the U.S. and Tajikistan end up tied on goal differential AND goals scored (which would happen if Tunisia scored 3-1 in this scenario)? Well, then it falls to the next tie-breaker ,which is:

     3) greatest number of points obtained in the group matches between the teams concerned (head-to-head)

And that, would go to Tajikistan who defeated the U.S. 4-3 in their opening match.

Lets say the U.S. does finish in third place, what are their chances of being one of the four third-place teams to move on to the Round of 16? To get technical, it’s 66.7 percent (rounding up that is), but that doesn’t really tell you much.

With final group matches still to go, there’s a lot of shifting that’s going to happen within each group, but we obviously are turning a keen eye towards those teams that could possibly end up in third place in their respective groups. Because the question is, if the U.S. does beat Belgium, will three points even be enough?

To try and clear up the murkiness, we looked at each group individually and figured out which match-ups are the most crucial in determining whether the U.S. will move on as a third place team. Then, we broke-down those match-ups to figure out which results would be the most beneficial.

If the U.S. were to defeat Belgium, below are the outcomes in the crucial match-ups that would be most helpful in getting the U.S. into the second round.


Peru – 7 points (+2 GD, 2 GF)
Costa Rica – 4 points (+1 GD, 3 GF)
Korea Rep. – 3 points (-2 GD, 2 GF)
Togo – 2 points (0 GD, 2 GF)

Critical Match-ups
Togo vs. Korea Republic

Possible Outcomes


Out of the three outcomes - Togo Win, Korea Win or Draw - the best scenario for the U.S. was a Korea win, and that's exactly what happened when the hosts defeated Togo, 2-1.

With that result, Korea ends up in third place with three points, a -2 goal differential and two goals scored. As long as the U.S. defeats Belgium, they will rank above Korea because in every case possible they will beat them on the second tie-breaker - goals scored. With a win, the U.S. secures three points, no worse than a -2 goal differential and they already have four goals (more than Korea at two).


England – 7 points (+6 GD, 8 GF)
Brazil – 6 points (+11 GD, 14 GF)
Korea DPR – 4 point (-4 GD, 3 GF)
New Zealand – 0 points (-13 GD, 0 GF)

Critical Match-ups
Korea DPR vs. New Zealand

Possible Outcomes

The U.S. needed a New Zealand win or a draw and it came so close to getting it, but Korea DPR pulled out the 1-0 victory which is not helpful for the U.S.

With the win, Korea DPR secured third place with four points, which means they will beat out the U.S. in any third place ranking as the U.S. can only get a maximum of three points.  

Spain – 7 points (+3 GD, 7 GF)
Argentina – 5 points (+3 GD, 5 GF)
Syria – 4 point (+1 GD, 4 GF)
Honduras – 0 points (-7 GD, 3 GF)

Critical Match-ups
Syria vs. Honduras

Possible Outcomes

Syria defeated Honduras, 2-0, securing third place at four points. That is not good for the U.S. because they can only secure three points at most with a win against Belgium, and would rank below Syria for one of the four third-place spots in the Round of 16.


Nigeria – 9 points (+7 GD, 9 GF)
France – 4 point (0 GD, 4 GF)
Japan – 3 points (-2 GD, 4 GF)
Haiti – 1 point (-5 GD, 5 GF)

Critical Match-ups
Nigeria vs. Haiti
Japan vs. France

Possible Outcomes

With Nigeria defeating Haiti, 4-1, and France defeating Japan, 2-1, the U.S. is sitting pretty! All they need now is to beat Belgium and they've secured a spot in the Round of 16. Nigeria won the group, while France took second and Japan slipped to third with just three points, the same amount the U.S. can earn if they beat Belgium. Although, the U.S. would rank above Japan because they beat them in tie-breakers.

The U.S. would at least be tied with Japan on goal differential (-2), but for sure would beat them at the next tie-breaker, goals scored. Japan ends up with four, which is the amount the U.S. already has. So, if the U.S. wins, which means they scored, and have at least five goals for.

Germany – 7 points (+6 GD, 11 GF)
Ghana – 6 points (+3 GD, 8 GF)
Colombia – 4 points (+4 GD, 9 GF)
T&T – 0 points (-13 GD, 1 GF)

Critical Match-ups
Germany vs. T&T
Colombia vs. Ghana

Possible Outcomes

The Ghana-Colombia match did not go as we hoped, but it didn't matter due to the results in Group A and Group D, which already allowed us to get through.