Biggest Upsets In Sporting History
Written by Phoebe
Published date · Nov. 18, 2022 | Last Updated · Dec. 14, 2022 | Read Time: 4 mins
Everyone loves an underdog but when that underdog punches above their weight, they can write their name in the history books. Sport may seem largely predictable in the modern era, but we can still enjoy the occasional shock result, even in this cash rich age.
Here, then are the teams and individuals who have fought against all the odds to create the biggest upsets in sports history.
Leicester City’s Incredible Premier League Win 2015/16
At the start of the 2015/16 Premier League season, Leicester City were among the teams widely tipped for relegation. Manchester City were beginning to dominate the English top flight and the Foxes were expected to be battling it out at the wrong end of the table.
What happened next could arguably be described as the greatest sports upset of them all. Leicester lead from the front, topping the table after winning the opening game of the season against Sunderland.
By the end of December, the Foxes had opened a gap over the chasing pack with key striker Jamie Vardy going on a long scoring streak. Pundits expected the Foxes to be overtaken but they just kept on winning, eventually securing the Premier League title with two games to spare. A few lucky punters collected at odds of 5,000/1 on the back of this stunning sporting shock.
US Men’s Ice Hockey Shocks the Mighty Soviet Union at Lake Placid
This game would rightly become known as the ‘Miracle on Ice’ and that’s a fair assessment of what played out at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. In the medal round of the men’s ice hockey, the Soviet Union were drawn against a United States team who simply appeared out of their depth.
The USSR were four-time defending champions and had won five of the last six Olympic golds. The Soviet team was full of professional athletes while, in-keeping with the Olympic spirit, the US fielded a team consisting of college players and amateurs.
In what was probably the biggest sporting upset on ice, the United States came from behind to snatch the game 4-3. Having lost an exhibition match 10-3 to the Soviet team ahead of the games, nobody had given them a chance.
2012 Ryder Cup: The Miracle at Medinah
Ahead of the final day of the 2012 Ryder Cup, you could have forgiven the engravers for putting the USA's name on the trophy before sitting back to enjoy their day. The biggest prize in team golf was on the line and the US team had more than one hand on the trophy.
The United States were leading 10-6 and just needed four-and-a-points from the remaining 12 singles. Their opponents, Europe, required eight wins to tie and retain the trophy that they’d won in 2010.
The odds were firmly stacked against the Europeans after poor opening displays and some US media outlets had already written their winning headlines. Luke Donald played the first match for Europe and his victory over Bubba Watson triggered a run of five straight wins for the underdogs.
Dustin Johnson and Zach Johnson responded for the United States, but Europe completed the biggest comeback in the history of the competition to retain the Ryder Cup and seal the Miracle at Medinah.
Tom Brady’s New England Patriots Stun St Louis Rams at Super Bowl XXXVI
Quarterback Tom Brady has been the driving force behind seven Super Bowl wins. He won the MVP award in five of those victories so why was this success seen as one of the greatest upsets in sports history?
In the 2001 NFL season, Brady was basically a complete unknown, having been taken 199th overall in the 2000 NFL Draft. An injury to starter Drew Bledsoe thrust the former Michigan QB into the limelight, but his team were still seen as huge underdogs when they came up against the St Louis Rams - who had become known as ‘The Greatest Show on Turf’.
New England, with Brady pulling the strings, led by 17-3 in the third quarter but were pegged back to 17-17. All the momentum was with St Louis until a drive downtown led to a 48-yard field goal from Adam Vinatieri. With 145 passing yards and a touchdown, Tom Brady was awarded the MVP and a legend was born.
Appalachian State Football Edges out Mighty Michigan
Only once in the history of American football has a Football Championship Subdivision team beaten one of their Football Bowl Championship counterparts. In 2007, Michigan Wolverines arranged an early-season game against the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Michigan expected an easy ride ahead of stiffer tests further down the road. Instead, they got a nail-biter that went right down to the wire - with Michigan needing to convert a last-second field goal to win the game. The kick was missed and the game ended in a humiliating 34-32, which has gone down in the history books as one of the biggest US sports upsets of all time.