Admit it. Deep down, you didn't really think the U.S. soccer team would escape the 2014 World Cup's Group of Death. But boy, are you excited for Tuesday's round of 16 game against Belgium.

We have a confession to make: So are we. Here's what you need to know before you watch the USA take on the Red Devils.

How good is Belgium, anyway?

Belgium is 11th in the latest FIFA rankings, updated right before the World Cup, and the U.S. is 13th. That's encouraging. What's not is Belgium handled the U.S. 4-2 in a friendly in May 2013, a match that wasn't as close as the score might indicate. The Belgians haven't exactly lit up the scoreboard in this tournament, but they have been great defensively and won all three of their games: 2-1 against Algeria and 1-0 against both Russia and South Korea.

Is Jozy Altidore going to play?

The striker has been declared fit for action by U.S. Soccer, but coach Jurgen Klinsmann isn't ready to say how much playing time Altidore will see. "We don't know how much [he can play] ... but he's available," Klinsmann said during a news conference Monday. "It's now difficult to say how many minutes." So, yay?

Will there be cooling breaks?

Not likely. The referee has the discretion to give players a breather, like in the sweltering Mexico-Netherlands game Sunday. The average July high temperatures in Salvador, site of the U.S.-Belgium match, hover in the low 80s. According to, Tuesday's forecast calls for temperatures in the upper 70s with sunny skies. 

Where's the biggest watch party in town?

That would be at Soldier Field, where U.S. Soccer will host another event after having to turn away fans from smaller venues during group-stage watch parties. Fans can enter Soldier Field starting at 1:30 p.m. Admission is free, but normal parking fees at the stadium will be in effect. Alcohol and other concessions will be sold inside.

Have these teams ever met in the World Cup?

Just once. The U.S. blanked Belgium 3-0 in group play in 1930. That also was the year the Americans posted their best World Cup finish, bowing out in the semifinals. This means U.S. fans have definitive bragging rights at least until Tuesday's match ends.

Should I bet the mortgage on a U.S. upset?

Come on. We would never to tell you to gamble with your mortgage payment, or to gamble at all. That's not what we do. What we can tell you is Las Vegas oddsmakers heavily favor the more talented Belgium team in this matchup. Which means the U.S. can play the underdog card!

Tribune contributed.



U.S. vs. Belgium

3 p.m. Tuesday, ESPN

Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye Sports' Facebook page