Kick Off: Mexico advance, record-setting TV ratings & US Open Cup 5th round

Here are the top 15 soccer stories we’re following today:

1.  MEXICO ADVANCE

Mexico became the second CONCACAF nation to secure their passage to the last 16 of the World Cup following a 3-1 win over Croatia. El Tri remain undefeated and, having put their qualification problems behind them, the tournament is proving a renaissance for captain Rafa Marquez as well as turning Miguel Herrera into something of a cult figure

2. THE RISE OF CONCACAF

Mexican star and goalscorer Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez spoke to ESPN after the win against Croatia and sang the praises of the North American confederation, CONCACAF, in light of two teams already advanced and the US national team in a great position. “The thing is, all the people think that CONCACAF is easy," he said, "... [but] CONCACAF is there.”

3. THE USA'S TURN

Despite the heartbreak of the draw against Portugal, the US national team is still in a very strong position to advance as they head into Thursday's match with Germany (noon ET, ESPN/Univision). How strong exactly? Stats gurus FiveThirtyEight.com say they have a 75 percent chance of advancing.

4. COLLUSION IN THE OFFING? NO WAY, KLINSI SAYS

The US need just a draw against Germany to advance. Same goes for the Germans. Could US coach Jurgen Klinsmann collude with his old colleague Joachim Low to ensure both nations go through? Not according to Klinsmann. Speaking of the US boss, Soccerly.com's Simon Evans sets the record straight on some "myths" about his coaching chops.

5. BESLER'S WINNING MENTALITY

Sporting KC defender Matt Besler has been integral to the US team's success so far. He weighed in on how the US will approach the Germany game: “You can’t go into the game trying to get a draw. You have to go in with a winning mentality.”

6. THE MLS EFFECT

It would be impossible not to recognize the impact of MLS players on the US team at the World Cup. Bleacher Report weighs in on the topic, and so does SBNation.com. Perhaps no MLS player has proven more in Brazil than Real Salt Lake's Kyle Beckerman, who has become crucial to the US midfield.

7. RECORD TV RATINGS FOR ESPN

Numbers don't lie. The television audience numbers for the USA-Portugal game tell an impressive story, including the fact that it broke records for viewership on ESPN and matched the ratings for many other traditional sporting events.

8. UNIVISION RECORDS, TOO

The USA-Portugal match was the highest viewed US national team game ever on Univision, too. And a tidbit in this article about the network's ratings is fascinating: The USA-Portugal numbers were roughly on par with the ratings for the Mexican national team's game with Brazil a few days earlier. 

9. GALAXY GOING ALL-IN ON OPEN CUP

The US Open Cup fifth round begins tonight. The LA Galaxy are taking it seriously, bringing a full-strength squad, including Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, for their game at the Carolina RailHawks (7:30 pm ET). However, a necessitated change in venue means the crowd will be limited.

10. UNION READY FOR THE COSMOS

The Philadelphia Union take on the New York Cosmos (7 pm ET). The two cities have plenty of shared soccer history. However, if the Cosmos want to keep their Open Cup dream alive, they’ll have to do so without Marcos Senna.

11. COLORADO CAUTIOUS OF SILVERBACKS

If the Colorado Rapids want to advance in the Open Cup, they’ll need to beat the Atlanta Silverbacks (9 pm ET), a side that already dispatched Real Salt Lake. Rapids defender Chris Klute is wary of the threat the Silverbacks pose.

12.  TEXAN TUSSLE

The Houston Dynamo face off against FC Dallas in the Open Cup (9 pm ET), offering the two Texan sides a rare second encounter during the season. Dallas coach Oscar Pareja says a win “would make us very happy and proud.”

13. SOUNDERS READY FOR ROUGH AND TUMBLE ENCOUNTER

Fredy Montero showed up at Seattle Sounders training on Monday as the team prepared for their game against the San Jose Earthquakes (10:30 pm ET). Montero won't suit up, but the Sounders are confident they'll emerge from what they expect to be a physical encounter. The Earthquakes could be excused for having one eye on the weekend’s big MLS clash against the LA Galaxy.

14. NEW LOOK FOR TIMBERS? 

The Portland Timbers travel to Sporting Kansas City (8:30 pm ET) and coach Caleb Porter might shake up his lineup. Sporting KC have not beaten the Timbers the last two times they've met, which is just one of the stats found in this breakdown of the numbers

15. FREDDY ADU AGAIN?

Yes, Freddy Adu is back, on a two-week trial with Bob Bradley's Stabaek in Norway.

MLSsoccer.com Musts

Behind the scenes on ESPN’s World Cup set

ExtraTime Radio: Time to focus on Germany

Chicharito joins the chorus: Time to stop hating on CONCACAF

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