The phenomenal story of Leicester City – the team who overcame 5,000: 1 odds to win the English Premier League on Monday – has captured the imagination of sports fans all over the world. That has led to inevitable comparisons between that achievement and other sporting achievements. The references to “Miracle on Ice” have come up a lot, but that was a much smaller upset, with 1,000:1 odds. A question worth asking is what San Antonio FC could do that would compare to Leicester City’s phenomenal achievement.
There is one notable barrier to this fantasy. Like San Antonio FC, Leicester City was playing in the third division in 2008-09. However, they had access to the top division, getting promoted to the top flight in the 2014-15 season thanks to the promotion and relegation system, something that San Antonio cannot expect to happen.
But if that barrier were to disappear, would San Antonio FC being given a Major League Soccer franchise next year and then winning the league be as big as Leicester’s achievement? That seems unlikely, as the longest odds for MLS belong to Houston Dynamo, and they only sit at 100:1. While a new team, with little time to build an MLS squad would potentially be longer, the parity of MLS, and the benefit of an expansion draft, make it hard to see the odds even going as long as 200:1.
One pathway that would allow San Antonio FC to win silverware against higher division opposition is the U.S. Open Cup, which will begin the first round next week, before San Antonio FC enters in the second round. Unfortunately, bookmakers don’t make odds for the U.S. Open Cup, making it hard to figure out what those odds would be, but 5,000:1 still seems unlikely as there are not many matches for San Antonio FC to win the cup and there are not many teams in the tournament. It seems unlikely San Antonio’s chances would be any longer than 200:1, after all, a USL club has won the cup before, when Rochester won the U.S. Open Cup in 1999.
Should San Antonio FC manage the unlikely and win the U.S. Open Cup, they will then earn a qualification for the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF), North and Central America’s main club competition. But even there, the longest odds for last season were 300:1 odds for Verdes FC from Belize.
But the structure of the CONCACAF Champions League makes it unlikely that San Antonio FC’s odds would be as long as Verdes FC. U.S. teams typically avoid the other big guns of the Liga MX and they cannot be drawn against another U.S. club, which means the only MLS club they could play is the Canadian qualifier. These combine to make the San Antonio FC odds of winning that tournament shorter, as they’d still be expected to advance to the knock-out stage, only playing teams from smaller CONCACAF nations making their odds smaller than Leicester’s 5000:1.
That leaves just one more trophy on offer for San Antonio FC, the FIFA Club World Championship, which would be held in December. That tournament pits the club side that wins each continent’s Champions League against each other in a knock-out tournament.
The Club World Championship definitely represents a completely improbable achievement for San Antonio FC. A 5,000:1 shot is phenomenally unlikely, and there are plenty of reasons to suspect that even if San Antonio made it that far their odds would not be as long as Leicester. The FIFA Club World Championship is a much smaller tournament, being a North American qualifier would place San Antonio FC in the quarter-finals, meaning they’d only need to win three matches. Of course, a CONCACAF team has never even made the final, let alone won the whole tournament. The longest odds seen in that tournament have only been around the 3000:1 mark.
Even then, San Antonio FC wouldn’t have as unlikely odds as Leicester City’s win, at least not on an individual basis. Having said that, it still seems that San Antonio FC winning something like the club World Championship would be even more unexpected than Leicester City’s English Premier League win. But this is where math comes in to it, adding together all the improbable situations gets San Antonio FC to around 5,000:1, so all they have to do is win the U.S. Open Cup, then win the CONCACAF Champions League and then win the Club World Championship and then maybe they’ll be considered to have done something as incredible as what Leicester City achieved on Tuesday.
San Antonio FC will play their first derby this Saturday, taking on Rio Grande Valley FC Toros at Toyota Field on Saturday night. Tickets are still available for purchase here.
Top Image: San Antonio FC midfielder Daniel Garcia, top, scores on Swope Park Rangers goalkeeper Jon Kempin during the first half of a USL soccer game, Saturday, April 9, 2016, in San Antonio. Photo by Darren Abate/USL.