v South Africa - 30 September, 1900 BST, Montpellier
Recent form: Lost to Canada in qualifying, but came through a two-leg play-off with Uruguay to make it to France. One warm-up match - against Irish province Munster - does not suggest they will be up to speed in time to face England.
Coach: Peter Thorburn's CV includes spells as an All Blacks selector and coach at Bristol. Now 68, the Kiwi only intended to get the US to France, but decided to stay on for the tournament. Has former Wasps and Gloucester coach Nigel Melville, now chief executive of USA Rugby, as his boss.
Captain: Mike Hercus. Born in Virginia to Australian parents, America's all-time leading points scorer played for the Wallabies Under-21s before switching to the land of his birth. Familiar to British fans after spells with Sale and Newport Gwent Dragons, the fly-half returned to California this year.
World Cup pedigree: Present for four of the five previous tournaments, missing out in 1995, but never progressed beyond the pool stages. Only two victories to their name.
World Cup high: Beat Japan 21-18 in their first-ever World Cup match in 1987, and triumphed over the same opposition four years ago, 39-26, with Hercus scoring 19 points.
World Cup low: Losing 27-25 to Romania in 1999 was a painful experience, but not as agonising as the 19-18 loss to Fiji four years ago. Hercus missed what would have been a winning conversion with the last kick of the game. Ouch.
World Cup legend: Dan Lyle. The athletic number eight turned down an NFL contract and brought his gridiron skills to bear on rugby instead with his gathering of restarts and overhead passes. Played in the 1999 and 2003 World Cups.
Present star: After a college career in gridiron and wrestling, Paul Emerick is now one of just seven full-time rugby players in the US squad. A mainstay for the Newport Gwent Dragons, the versatile 27-year-old can play centre, wing or full-back.
Maverick: Durban-born scrum-half Chad Erskine plays for Waterloo in England's National League Two. The 27-year-old has only been playing international rugby a year, but will relish facing his native South Africa, who he represented at polo.
Enforcer: Now 37, 6ft 9in lock Luke Gross is America's most-capped player with more than 60 and has come out of international retirement for the World Cup. Now with Doncaster in National League One, he counts Llanelli Scarlets, Newcastle and Rotherham among his former clubs.
Strengths: Solid up front with a core of experienced operators like Leeds prop Mike MacDonald and veteran Gross. The boot of fly-half Hercus is a reliable source of points.
Weaknesses: With a largely amateur squad made up of American college players, scoring tries in the heat of Test match rugby is a problem. As is lasting the full 80 minutes.
Did you know? The USA were the only team to score a try against Australia during the Wallabies' World Cup triumph in 1999. Juan Grobler claimed the honour, in a 55-19 defeat.
World Cup base: Lesquin (from 3 September)
They say: "If we perform really well, then we will win a game. And we could possibly win two games. Possibly. It's a tough pool. But the greatest thing about it is we are going. We're going to the World Cup."
You say: "South Africa and England to qualify, with Samoa, Tonga and USA in 3, 4, 5."
mikeyphil on 606
World ranking: 15
Our verdict: Can be expected to be competitive against Tonga, but the loser of that game will finish bottom of the group. Unrealistic to expect any more.
Ranking and odds correct at 26 August. Odds supplied by William Hill.