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USA Regains Top Spot in FIFA Rankings

Canada falls to 11th, England claims 5th

Rich Lam/Getty Images

Not even a week after the final whistle blew drawing the 2015 Women's World Cup to a close, FIFA  released the new rankings Friday morning. Some changes were expected; the United States regained the top spot from Germany, while England moved up to claim the 5th spot. Others though, like Brazil's standing improving, seem to have left the Twitter world in a state of confusion around FIFA's process for ranking the teams.

Brazil, who won Group E but was knocked out in the Round of 16 by Australia, somehow moved into the 6th spot. Canada, who had a less than stellar tournament but won their group before losing to England in a quarterfinal match, dropped three spots to 11th.

The reality is, much like everything else with FIFA, the men's and women's rankings are calculated differently. FIFA contends the formula is relatively easy to understand:

WWR,new = WWR,old + ( Actual - Predicted )

Pretty straightforward, right? Not really. The WWR,old is pretty clear, but the "Actual" and "Predicted" gets a little more complicated.

The result of a team's match is converted into a value: "Actual". Via some formulae, the difference in rating points (strength) results in a "Predicted" value.

Should the "Actual" value be better, then the new WWR will be higher than the old one. This is fair, as the team will have delivered more than was expected. The underachiever loses the same amount of rating points as their opponents have won; their "Predicted" result is greater than their "Actual" result, i.e. they have not done as well as expected.

The key here is "some formulae," which FIFA does not exactly provide insight into. So let's get back to the example of Brazil.

A conclusion that can be drawn for this basic rule is that the rating points which a team earns for a win is dependent on the strength of the opponent. A win over an extremely weak team scarcely improves their standing in the WWR, while a win over a stronger team is awarded with a clear increase of the WWR value.

Group E consisted of Brazil, Costa Rica, Spain and Korea Republic. Entering into the tournament, Brazil was ranked 7th, Costa Rica held the 37th spot, Spain was 14th, and Korea Republic was 18th. They also saw action against 10th ranked Australia, who handed them their exit ticket from the tournament.

Compare that to Canada, who dropped three spots. The host nation entered the tournament as #8 in the world in a group with 12th-ranked Netherlands, 16th-ranked China PR and 17th ranked New Zealand. Canada met 19th ranked Switzerland in the Round of 16 before leaving the tournament at the hands of 6th ranked England.

Based on the explanation above, there is little wonder the Brazil team moved up in the ranking while Canada fell.

Top 15 Rankings:
1. USA
2. Germany
3. France
4. Japan
5. England
6. Brazil
7. Sweden
8. Korea DPR
9. Australia
10. Norway
11. Canada
12. Netherlands
13. Italy
14. China PR
15. Denmark