A quick guide to how pool play works
12 teams are split across three pools. The top two teams in each pool advance to the quarterfinals, along with two of the three third-place teams.
How are places determined? By earning points during pool play rounds. Teams earn points during pool play in the following ways:
- 3 points for a win
- 2 for a draw
- 1 for any loss
If two teams in a pool end up with the same number of points, which sometimes happens, a head-to-head match is the first tiebreaker. Should three teams end up with identical points, then it’s point differential that determine it, which usually settles it, but if it doesn’t, then it goes to try differential.
Often times, one team will go undefeated, the 2nd-place team finishes 2-1, the third-place team 1-2 and usually the last place team goes winless.
Occasionally, three teams will finish 2-1 and the bottom dweller in the pool finishes 0-3. In circumstance, and in the highly unlikely event it happens in all three pools, the 2-1 third-place team is certain to reach the quarterfinals.
However, in most other cases (two teams finish 2-1 and two finish 1-2, or the top team is 3-0 and the bottom three are all 1-2) the third-place team in a four-team pool is going to be 1-2.
This is critical in Rio as two of three third-place teams advance into the quarterfinals. This is the most likely scenario, which means point differential is key.
If there’s a draw in a pool, and it results in the third-place team being 1-1-1, it usually means that team will get in, as it’s better than being 1-2 by every measure, and 1-2 is the most common record for third-place teams.
What does all this mean for the Eagles, who just lost 17-14 to Argentina? You can expect the US to pile the points on against Brazil, to protect there point differential in case they finish 1-2.
If the United States beats Brazil and Fiji, they’ll make it in for sure and may win the pool.
If they beat Brazil and lose to Fiji, their advancement to the quarterfinals will be determined by three things:
- Did any 3rd place teams in the other pools do better than 1-2? If only one does, then the next two points will be crucial.
- Can the USA pile the points on Brazil?
- Can they keep Fiji as close as possible?
So there’s still of rugby to played before the US is out of medal contention.