This World Cup has been absolutely relentless.
Over the last 10 days, soccer fans have been nearly overwhelmed (in a good way) with some of the most exciting, entertaining and exhausting action imaginable. There have been a ton of brilliant goals, massive upsets, dethroned champions and big stars rising to the occasion.
On top of that, there’s this extremely likable, resolute and cardiac-inducing American team featuring two Sporting KC players prominently.
What happens when you turn the World Cup up a notch with half a dozen elimination games in four days — including the United States vs. Germany on Thursday at 11 a.m.? What happens in KC when you also add a mid-week game at Sporting Park, a top-of-the-table match for FC Kansas City and get Major League Soccer back from a two-week hiatus?
Soccer chaos — in the best way imaginable.
Now would be a good time to find a few extra vacation days or call in sick, hire a babysitter, and start preparing some apologies to your spouse.
Weeks like this don’t happen very often for soccer fans.
Mexico and Croatia have both been entertaining and fun teams to watch. Sadly, one of them is probably going home. If Brazil beats Cameroon (incredibly likely), Mexico needs either a win or a draw to advance. Croatia has to beat Mexico to jump them in the standings. Mexico-Croatia kicks off at 3 p.m. on ESPN. Brazil-Cameroon is at the same time on ESPN2.
This really is an elimination match: Italy vs. Uruguay (11 a.m., ESPN). Italy has the tiebreaker on goal differential — and can still win the group if England beats Costa Rica (same time, ESPN2), who have already advanced. Uruguay needs to beat Italy outright to stay alive. England is the only team eliminated from contention.
Later that evening, Sporting KC will host the Portland Timbers in the fifth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. Last week, Kansas City knocked off Minnesota United 2-0 in the fourth round.
France has all but officially won Group E, but this is still one of two World Cup groups with all four teams officially still in contention. The two matches kick off simultaneously at 3 p.m. — Ecuador vs. France (ESPN) and Switzerland vs. Honduras (ESPN2). Ecuador has a slight edge over the Swiss for second place.
After this weekend’s two 2-2 draws, Group G — the “Group of Death” — is wide open. Germany and the United States sit atop the standings with 4 points and play the final game at 11 a.m. (ESPN).
Now, imagine it starting at 9 a.m. Insane.
A win for the United States would book a place in the knockout stage as group winners. A draw would see the U.S. move on in second position. A narrow loss would also be all right — but only if Portugal-Ghana draw or that match ends with a very narrow scoreline. (Think 1-0 Portugal.) Here are the full scenarios.
Of course, there still exists a very real possibility that Ghana — a team the U.S. beat already, but who have managed to have a hand in eliminating the U.S. at previous World Cups — has a chance to still eliminate the U.S. at this World Cup. Say Germany beats the U.S. 2-0 (conceivable) and Ghana pummels Portugal 2-0 (conceivable), then the U.S. is done.
This might be the first day without a World Cup match since June 12, but that doesn’t mean there will be any let off in the soccer. Major League Soccer springs back onto the scene with Sporting KC traveling to Portland to take on the Timbers — for the second time this week.
It’s a really late kickoff (10 p.m. on KMCI-TV), but that should just allow fans in KC just a little bit more recovery time from Thursday’s action.
Oh, we’re not quite done yet. FC Kansas City hosts the Portland Thorns in an important clash in the National Women’s Soccer League. The Blues, riding an five-game winning streak, currently sit in second place in the league. Portland is tied for third place. The match is at 7 p.m. at the Durwood Soccer Stadium at UMKC.