Kotoshogiku winning the January 2016 grand sumo tournament with a 14-1 record. An underachiever for nearly his entire career who’d been kadoban five times. He’d never gotten more than 12 wins in any tournament prior to that one. His championship was the first by a Japanese rikishi in ten years.
Team TNT making it to the finals of Team Ninja Warrior. I never saw this coming. Pegging them as the 4th strongest team in the competition would’ve been generous. And yet despite being completely blanked by Team Ronin, Adam Arnold catches a break, Travis Rosen gets a damn nitro boost, and the team is through when the up-and-down Ryan Stratis has a “down” moment at the worst possible time. An absolutely woeful start followed by getting every break just when they needed it.
I don’t know how it works in the continent, but there are playoffs within the English league system, it’s just not to decide the overall champion. The top two teams are automatically promoted, and the next 4 play a semi-final and a final to decide the third team to go up.
All of which isn’t relevant to sports upsets, but it shows that the concept of the playoff isn’t alien to English football.
Japan beating South Africa in the 2015 Rugby World Cup gets my vote (mentioned in the OP).
Prior to 2015 Japan had won only one game at a rugby world cup (against Zimbabwe in 1991). South Africa had only ever lost one pool match in previous world cups (against England in 2003). I can’t find what the pre-match odds were but Japan were 1000-1 outsiders to win the tournament, with South Africa rated a 7-1 chance to win the whole thing. Japan winning is almost certainly the greatest upset in Rugby World Cup history (which admittedly only goes back to 1987).
Of the sports I am familiar with (which don’t include tennis, golf, rugby or MMA) definitely the biggest single-game upset would have to be Middle Tennessee over Michigan State in the NCAA tournament. On a season-long basis definitely Leicester finishing second* after nearly being relegated last year would be up there. The Warriors winning 73 was also a pretty long shot, but I’m not sure how you’d compare those.
TCU beating Oregon in the Alamo Bowl wouldn’t have been considered a huge upset before the game, but certainly would have at halftime when they were down 41-0! At least it wasn’t a playoff game.
*Or, I suppose, it’s mathematically possible they might actually beat out Spurs for first.
Leicester City have now won the English Premier League. And they haven’t just nicked it, they’re 7 points ahead and have, by any subjective or objective criteria, been the best team.
They were 5000-1 shots before the season started, relegation favourites and I have to put this forward as the biggest sporting upset ever, let alone for this year. I am struggling to think of anything more outrageous.
In the US how likely is an average guy, not normally a soccer fan, to know about Leicester’s extraordinary season? It’s in a less preferred sport in a foreign country, but is is extraordinary. I would think if anything that amazing happened in US sport people here would all know about it even if they didn’t follow the sport.
Haha - as I said in the other thread, of course they will. I know your probably know this, but they’re just saying that for free publicity (which is any bookies’ second speciality, after - perhaps even before - setting odds). Sure, they have a handful of big payouts to make, but they’d much rather that than lots of small payouts on the favourites. They’ll be raking it in next season with bets of thousands to one against Brighton (or whoever) winning the title. This season is a once-in-a-lifetime event.
5000 - 1 odds, damn. Good for anyone who put a $100 on that. I know less than zero about the English Premier League, but I heard yesterday it would be like if a AAA baseball team suddenly joined MLB this season and proceeded to win 100 games and the World Series. It was that improbable.
I don’t think there is a perfect example in USA sport as the promotion/relegation aspect of the European leagues allows a degree of “borderline” top level performance that you don’t get in the states.
That said, yours is a pretty good example. Leicester were borderline Premier league quality so if you can think of a AAA baseball team that are borderline MLB quality (but still likely to finish at the bottom) then yes, that’s a decent yardstick.