The 19th FIFA World Cup is scheduled to take place between 11 June and 11 July 2010 in South Africa. It will be the first time that the tournament has been hosted by a nation in the Confederation of African Football. The USA have a somewhat checkered record in the World Cup, but have reached the final stages on 7 occasions.
In the inaugural 1930 World Cup, in Uruguay, the USA won both their opening fixtures 3-0 against Belgium and Paraguay. They then suffered a humiliating 6-1 semi-final loss to Argentina, but their 3rd place finish remains the side’s best performance to date.
The United States lost their first match in Brazil 3-1 to Spain. However, their second group match produced one of the greatest shocks in World Cup (and football) history with a 1-0 defeat of England. Despite this memorable win, a 5-2 loss to Chile saw the USA eliminated from the competition.
The USA were named as hosts for the 1994 World Cup in 1989. FIFA’s decision was greeted with almost universal disapproval, given the weakness of the USA team and no professional league after the NASL folded in 1984. However, the USA saved embarrassment for themselves and FIFA with a 1-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago in the last of the 1989 qualifiers earning them a place at the World Cup finals for the first time in 40 years. Their performances at the 1990 Italy finals were disappointing due mainly to the inexperience of the team. Defeats by Czechoslovakia (5-1), Italy (1-0) and Austria (2-1) saw the USA fall at the first hurdle.
The hosts USA opened their 1994 campaign with a 1-1 draw with Switzerland at Detroit’s Silverdome, the first-ever World Cup match played indoors. In their next group game, the USA faced world no. 4 ranked Colombia. The USA prevailed 2-1, aided by an Andres Escobar own goal. A 1-0 defeat was insufficient to prevent the USA progressing to the knockout stages for only the second time ever. They were eliminated 1-0 by subsequent champions Brazil.
Normal service was resumed in France in 1998 with the USA losing all 3 group matches to Germany (2-0), Iran (2-1) and Yugoslavia (1-0). The blame for these poor performances was directed at manager Steve Sampson, after dropping captain John Harkes, along with several other players who had been influential in the qualifying campaign.