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History of the U.S. Men’s National Team In World Cup Tournaments


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.

In stark contrast, the USA were relatively successful in 2002. A win over Portugal (3-2), a 1-1 draw with co-hosts South Korea and a 3-1 loss to Poland were sufficient to see the USA reach the last 16. A 2-0 win over Mexico led to a quarter-final clash with eventual runners-up Germany. Despite losing 1-0, this was the USA`s best World Cup finish since 1930.

Following a relatively successful 2002 tournament, the Germany-hosted 2006 finals were disappointing. Having finished as leading qualifiers, the USA were drawn in Group E along with the Czech Republic, Italy and Ghana. Following an opening loss to the Czechs, the USA gained a very creditable 1-1 draw with Italy. However, the side were again eliminated at the first stage after losing their final group game 2-1 to Ghana.

Top Players
Now retired midfielder Cobi Jones is currently the most-capped USA player. He made 164 appearances for his country between 1992 and 2004, scoring 15 times. He represented the USA at the World Cups of 1994, 1998, and 2002. Striker Landon Donovan, attached to MLS side Los Angeles Galaxy, but currently on loan to Germany’s Bayern Munich is the USA’s current top scorer with 37 successful strikes in 106 international appearances since 2000. Left winger DaMarcus Beasley, currently playing his club football at Glasgow Rangers, is another current USA player worthy of note. He has scored 17 times in 83 international appearances since his debut in 2001.

2010 Prospects
In the qualifying stages for the 2010 World Cup, the USA have progressed to the final qualifying round, from which the top three teams will qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The fourth place team will compete in a 2-leg play-off against the fifth-placed team from South America. A 2-0 win over Mexico in February left them as joint group leaders with Costa Rica, the group also containing El Salvador, Trinidad & Tobago and Honduras. Their qualification seems very likely, though they are rated at 100/1+ to win in South Africa and how they fare is anybody’s guess. However, punters can take advantage of a wide range of sign-up and free bet offers from online bookmakers.

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  1. LI Matt

    March 14, 2009 at 11:24 am

    I went looking through the details of the unsuccessful qualifying attempts between 1950 and 1990 (pretty depressing stuff, as you’d probably guess). Did you know our first win in a qualifier on home soil was in 1968? 1-0 over Canada in Atlanta. We were then knocked out by Haiti, which was at least a change from the usual getting knocked out by Mexico.


  2. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    March 14, 2009 at 10:11 am

    Very good piece.

    Don’t forget about 1934, when the US beat Mexico for the only time prior to 1980 in a qualifier held in Italy but then proceed to be routed in their first game by the host country 7-1.

  3. joel es latest soccer news

    March 14, 2009 at 12:33 am

    Thanks for the article. i just found the site.

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