The United States men’s national soccer team represents the United States in international association football competition and is controlled by the United States Soccer Federation. Though soccer has not traditionally had a high profile in American sporting life, the sport has steadily grown in popularity since the 1970s. The team is, according to the FIFA World Rankings, ranked 14th in the world and first in CONCACAF, has appeared in the last five FIFA World Cups, and will appear in the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
USA National Football Team History:
In 1885, the United States and Canada played the first international match held outside the United Kingdom. Canada defeated the U.S. 1–0 in Newark, New Jersey. The United States had its revenge the following year when it beat Canada 1–0, also in Newark. Thirty years later, the United States played its first official international match under the auspices of U.S. Soccer against Sweden in Stockholm, where the USA won 3-2.
The U.S. earned both silver and bronze medals in men’s soccer at the 1904 Summer Olympics held in St. Louis, Missouri. The tournament only featured three teams: Galt F.C. from Canada and Christian Brothers College and St. Rose Parish from the United States. Galt defeated both American teams to win the gold. Christian Brothers defeated St. Rose in a third match after two scoreless draws.
In the 1930 World Cup, the U.S. won its first match in World Cup history, beating Belgium 3–0 at the Estadio Gran Parque Central in Montevideo, Uruguay. The match occurred simultaneously with another across town at the Estadio Pocitos where France defeated Mexico.
In the next match, the United States again won 3–0, this time against Paraguay. For many years, FIFA credited Bert Patenaude with the first and third goals and his teammate Tom Florie with the second. Other sources described the second goal as having been scored by Patenaude or by Paraguayan Ramon Gonzales. In November 2006, FIFA announced that it had accepted evidence from “various historians and football fans” that Patenaude scored all three goals, and was thus the first person to score a hat trick in a World Cup finals tournament.
In the 1950 World Cup, the United States lost its first match 3–1 against Spain, but then won 1–0 against England in what is widely considered one of the greatest upsets in football history, England having recently beaten the rest of Europe 6–1 in an exhibition match. Sports Illustrated and Soccer Digest have called the game the “Miracle on Grass,” a reference to the Miracle on Ice. The older Independência Stadium, in the city of Belo Horizonte, hosted this legendary victory. At least, a defeat to Chile by a 5–2 margin in the third group match saw the U.S. eliminated from the tournament. It would be four decades before the United States would make another appearance at the World Cup.
After the enthusiasm caused by the creation and rise of the North American Soccer League in the 1970s, it seemed as though the U.S. men’s national team would soon become a powerful force in world football. Such hopes were not realized, however, and the United States was not considered a strong side in this era. From 1981 to 1983, only two international matches were played.
1990s the rebirth of American soccer:
In 1989, FIFA named the United States hosts of the 1994 World Cup, but it did so under significant international criticism because of the perceived weakness of the national team and the lack of a professional outdoor league. This criticism diminished somewhat when a 1–0 win against Trinidad and Tobago, the U.S.’s first away win in nearly two years, in the last match of the 1989 CONCACAF Championship, earned the United States its first World Cup appearance in 40 years.
The United States won the 2002 Gold Cup to set up the team’s best performance since 1930 in the 2002 World Cup, when the U.S. team reached the quarterfinals. The knockout stage was reached through a 3–2 win over Portugal and a 1–1 tie with co-host and eventual fourth place finisher, South Korea.
This set the stage for a Round 2 face-off with familiar continental rivals Mexico. The U.S. emerged victorious in the first World Cup showdown between the two old adversaries, 2–0. The team lost 1–0 to eventual runners-up Germany in the quarterfinals.
The United States followed up this success by winning its third Gold Cup, and second out of three, in 2005.
In Summer 2009, the United States had one of the busiest stretches in its history. For the 2009 Confederations Cup the U.S. was drawn into Group B with Brazil, Egypt, and Italy. After losing 3-1 to Italy and 3-0 to Brazil, the United States made an unlikely comeback to finish second in the group and reach the semi-final on the second tie-breaker, goals scored, having scored four goals to Italy’s three. This was achieved on the final day of group play when the United States beat Egypt 3-0 while Brazil beat Italy 3-0.