RECIFE, Brazil (AP) — The United States is set to kick off what it hopes will be a run into the second round of the World Cup when it takes on world power Germany in the final match of the qualifying round.
A win or tie moves the Americans into the knockout round. The U.S. can also advance depending on the outcome of the Portugal-Ghana showdown in which both teams will also be fighting for a chance to move on. The game begins at Noon Eastern Time.
There's eager anticipation — and some divided loyalties — for German-Americans who've been rooting for both teams until their pivotal World Cup clash.
Organizers expect thousands to show up Thursday at Cincinnati's Fountain Square for a watch party when the U.S. soccer team plays Germany.
The downtown square is home to Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, the annual celebration of the city's German heritage which drew 600,000 last year. There are hundreds of thousands of people of German descent still in the Cincinnati region today after an immigration wave in the early 19th century.
One in Cincinnati says German-Americans are excited about both teams, especially since the U.S. team has a German coach and five German-Americans.
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Milwaukee, Chicago and other U.S. areas with large German-American populations expect packed bars and restaurants.
And U.S. fans' surging interest in the country's World Cup fortunes, and the surging comfort level with watching games online and on mobile devices, come together in what could be a milestone for live streaming.
The Americans' group finale Thursday will be smack in the middle of the workday. The match against Germany could determine whether they advance to the knockout round, and it starts at noon on the East Coast, 9 a.m. out west.
Sunday's 2-2 tie with Portugal set records for WatchESPN, which allows subscribers who receive the network on their pay TV to stream the game for free. The average audience per minute was 490,000, with a total of nearly 1.4 million viewers.
But that match was played on a weekend evening, when it was easy for Americans to gather in front of the TV.