Could the U.S. cut it in UEFA? 

February, 24, 2012

It's a question often considered by U.S. supporters, even if we may be afraid of the answer.

How would the national team fare if it made a permanent move outside of CONCACAF?

This question seems particularly relevant now, as the U.S. prepares for a friendly with Italy on Wednesday. We're used to seeing the U.S. play CONCACAF clubs, and it's a nice treat when it plays the world powers, but it might not seem as fun if matches with the Azzurri and Spain were the norm, not the exception.

Forget about the geographic and political restrictions for making such a move possible. What I am asking here is: Could the United States thrive right now in a more competitive region? Fortunately, we can simulate the outcome of such a situation using ESPN's Soccer Power Index.

Because the U.S. is playing Italy next week and Euro 2012 is the next big international tournament, let's take a look at how the Yanks would fare in that competition. We can use SPI's offensive and defensive ratings to estimate the win, lose and draw percentages for each match in the 2012 Euro group stage. Then by simulating every match 10,000 times, we can find things like how often each team wins its group, advances to the knockout round, etc.

If we run the 10,000 simulations 16 different times -- replacing each Euro partipant with the U.S. in each instance -- we can find out how realistic expectations should be. So how would the United States do in Euro 2012? Let's take a look.

Albert Larcada is an Analytics Specialist in ESPN's Stats & Information group. Among other analytics projects, he maintains, advances and writes about ESPN's Soccer Power Index (SPI) algorithm.