FC Dallas' marketing team came up with a fun promotion surround this summer's World Cup. In partnership with Sportsradio 1310 The Ticket, they offered $1,000,000 for a perfect World Cup bracket. "Perfect" in this case meant 1) guessing first and second place in all eight groups, and 2) predicting the outcome of every knockout match. Of the 1,061 people who entered the contest, five called both Groups A and B correctly, with Brazil and Netherlands winning, followed by Mexico and Chile. Obviously, defending champion Spain's collapse hurt a lot of brackets, and there were significant blind spots in each entrant's prognostications.
Looking over the five leaders' brackets, each of them called for England to advance out of Group D, and none of them picked Costa Rica. Not that these individuals can be blamed all that much for underestimating the Ticos, as I don't know of a single pundit or model that predicted them to outlast two of the three former World Cup champions in D. All the same, FC Dallas can now rest easy that they won't have to pay the million dollar prize, and that should not be a shock. Surprises are to be expected in any tournament, even if no one knew that Costa Rica would be one of seven teams that would win their first two matches, the others being Netherlands, Chile, Colombia, France, Argentina, and Belgium.
Before the tournament began, I looked over the group odds laid out by Nate Silver's Soccer Power Index, and found that their model had implied odds of 0.0012% to correctly call first and second place in all eight groups. That's a little better than one in 100,000, and that's before trying to call the 16 knockout fixtures (including the third place game), where one false step can very easily lead to an upset. If someone could predict each knockout match with 70% accuracy, the total implied odds of them getting a perfect bracket would be roughly one in 80,000,000. All those 30% chances of failure snowball into an overwhelming chance at imperfection. Hopefully FCD had a good feel for this unlikelihood, and didn't overpay an insurance company to hedge their bets against someone actually having a perfect bracket.
The bottom line is that it would be extremely difficult to predict all the ebbs and flows of a 32-team tournament in any sport. FCD actually paid entrants to their contest a big favor by only asking that they pick groups' top 2, instead of requiring that entrants call the triune possibilities of all 48 group fixtures. That would have pushed the contest from overwhelmingly unlikely, to essentially impossible.
However, many entrants to this bracket challenge still have a shot at some very nice consolation prizes. First place will get a pair of 2015 FC Dallas season tickets, second gets a team-signed ball, and third an authentic home jersey. Best of luck to all, and I hope that no one is too disappointed that the club won't be handing them a check with six zeros on the end of it.