John O’Brien’s goal started the 2002 World Cup run
Sunday will make the first tournament final ever in a non CONCACAF event for the United States. However, the US has made deep runs in major tournaments before. Let’s take a quick look at these tournaments.
1930 World Cup: Argentina
The US defeated Belgium and Paraguay in the first two matches of the 1930 World Cup. This first FIFA World Cup was a knock out only competition with no group stage. The United States was eliminated 6-1 in the semifinal by the Argentina.
Key Players: Billy Gonsalves, Bert Patenaude Thomas Florie
1992 Confederations Cup: Saudi Arabia
The US placed third in this four team tournament held in Saudi Arabia. This competition was won by Argentina.
Key Players: Bruce Murray, Eric Wynalda, Marcelo Balboa
1995 Copa America: Uruguay
Probably the best tournament run in the history of US Soccer. This is especially true when considering the entire body of work and the level of opposition. The US defeated Chile and Argentina in the group stage and Mexico in the quarterfinal. The US gave credible performance in the semifinal against Brazil, but fell short and then lost the 3rd place game to Colombia.
Key Players: Eric Wynalda, Earnie Stewart, John Harkes
1999 Confederations Cup: Mexico
Read my piece on this event from two weeks ago. The US defeated Germany en route to a third place finish, the previous highest for the US at a FIFA event.
Key Players: Brian McBride, Joe Max Moore, Jovan Kirovski
2002 World Cup: Korea/Japan
An opening win over Portugal and a draw against host South Korea put the US in a position to advance from the group stage. In the second round the US defeated arch rival Mexico, 2-0 and were unlucky to not advance beyond the quarterfinals.
Key Players: Claudio Reyna, John O’Brien, Eddie Pope
The most famous United States victory in a major competition took place in the 1950 World Cup. Joe Gaetjens goal and Frank Borghi’s heroic goalkeeping lifted the US to a shocking 1-0 defeat over England in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Those were the only three points the US got in that World Cup. The US would not qualify for another World Cup until 1990.