Don't despair, U.S. soccer fans. Actually, it's probably OK if you want to despair a bit. But don't let the World Cup draw get you too down because ESPN statistician Nate Silver sees "a path forward" out of the so-called "Group of Death."
When the 32 teams heading for Brazil were drawn into eight groups on Friday, the U.S. squad found itself matched with Germany, Ghana and Portugal in Group G, widely hailed as the "Group Of Death." This fearsome foursome included two teams ranked in the top five (Germany, Portugal) in the most recent FIFA rankings. It also included the two teams that have been responsible for the U.S. team's Cup-ending defeats in 2010, 2006 and 2002 (Ghana, Germany).
"It's a bad group for the USA but there were a lot of bad groups," Silver told Bob Ley on ESPN2 after the draw. "We projected before the draw, looking at all these hundreds of scenarios, that they had about a 45% chance of advancing. Now [it's] more like 39-40%."
WATCH ESPN VIDEO ABOVE
Silver, the founder of FiveThirtyEight.com who left The New York Times earlier this year to join ESPN, was not exactly brimming with optimism. But his statistically-backed response to the World Cup draw was certainly more hopeful than many other reactions: Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl wrote that "the U.S. got about the worst draw imaginable" and even U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann admitted that his team "hit the worst of the worst" in the draw.
While Silver indicated that the draw resulted in a slight dip in the United States' chances of escaping the first round, the oddsmakers seemed to think the draw had a negligible impact on the team's chances of winning the entire tournament. Before and after the draw, oddsmaker Bovada listed the U.S. as 100/1 longshots to lift the FIFA World Cup Trophy.
"If the U.S. plays as well as it did during qualifying, this current iteration of the team, there is a path forward there," Silver said. "We avoided Brazil. We avoided Spain We're going to have to play terrific soccer but it's not quite as bad as it looks."
Such an assessment will be welcome news to the many fans who took to social media after the draw was complete to commiserate over finding their favorite team in the #GroupOfDeath.