The U.S. women's national team wants a third SheBelieves Cup title in four years, but it will need some help in order to claim it.
The U.S. women's national team needs a win and some help in order to retain its SheBelieves Cup crown–and not in that order.
Two consecutive draws against Japan and England have put the U.S. women in unfamiliar territory, and they'll know before first kick in Tuesday's finale vs. Brazil whether they have any shot to win the four-team competition, or whether they'll come up short for the second time in four years.
Simply put, they need Japan and England to draw. If there's a winner in their opening match of the doubleheader in Tampa, Fla., then that team will lift the trophy, leaving USA-Brazil as a consolation bout. If they do draw, then the door will open for Jill Ellis's side to salvage their otherwise uneven tournament with a third title.
Of the four teams, only Brazil cannot wind up topping the table, as it enters the finales with no points, trailing both Japan and England by four. The USA enters with two points but still has hope of leapfrogging its two previous foes.
Here's how each team can win the SheBelieves Cup:
As stated above, the USA needs a Japan-England draw to entertain any thoughts of a first-place finish. If that happens, then the USA needs to beat Brazil by at least two goals–with the USA also outscoring Japan by two goals to satisfy the tiebreaker.
The tiebreaker order is goal differential, then goals scored. A Japan draw and a two-goal USA win would put the two even on the first tiebreaker. Japan enters the finale having scored one more goal than the USA in the opening two matches, so if the Americans could take the edge on that front, it would remove the tiebreaker situation from getting even messier (more on that below). But first things first: all eyes are on the Japan-England result.
On the flip side of all of this, a loss to Brazil would cement a last-place finish, while a draw would keep the U.S. in third.
The simplest scenario involves Japan beating England.
Japan would also win if it draws England and the USA draws or loses to Brazil, by virtue of its goal-differential edge on the Lionesses.
Should England beat Japan, then Phil Neville's side would take the title, following up last year's second-place finish and the two third-place finishes in the years before that with another step of incremental improvement.
England cannot win if it draws Japan, given the goal-differential deficit entering the finale.
THE CHAOS SCENARIO
Remember when the men's World Cup had a group come down to fair play points (i.e. yellow cards and red cards)? That could be in play (oddly involving Japan again) with a very specific set of results. Should Japan and England draw 1-1 and the USA beat Brazil 2-0, it would put the U.S. and Japan tied for first and level on points, goal differential, goals scored and head-to-head result.
The next tiebreaker, according to tournament organizer U.S. Soccer, is fair play points. Japan has had one yellow card in its first two games, while the USA has yet to have a player carded.