USA World Cup 2014: Team Guide for FIFA Tournament
After a two-year qualification process, the United States men's national team is now only three weeks away from kicking off the 2014 World Cup.
Here's your guide to the team, including how the U.S. qualified, the current roster, the team's key players, its World Cup history and when and where you can watch the matches.
Road to the Finals
The USMNT, along with Costa Rica, Honduras and Mexico, qualified for the 2014 World Cup from the CONCACAF region.
Qualification for the U.S. began in the third round of CONCACAF qualifying with the U.S. placed in a group alongside Jamaica, Guatemala and Antigua and Barbuda.
The third round began in June of 2012, and the U.S. started off with a fairly unimpressive and, at times, nervy 3-1 win over Antigua and Barbuda at home. Four days later, the U.S. tied Guatemala away after conceding the lead in the 81st minute, when Marco Pappa hit a stunning free kick to equalize late in the match.
Qualifying resumed in September, when the U.S. lost 2-1 to Jamaica in Kingston. The U.S., four days later, then won the return leg against Jamaica 1-0 on September 11 in a flag-filled Columbus Crew Stadium.
Heading into the last two matches of the semifinal round of qualifying in October, the U.S. still wasn't assured of advancement. In the first match in October, the U.S. won 2-1 over Antigua and Barbuda away on the strength of two goals from Eddie Johnson, including one in the 90th minute. The U.S. then headed into its final match of the semifinal round against Guatemala, needing a win or a tie to guarantee its place in the final round of qualifying.
The match started out horribly for the U.S. as Carlos Ruiz got in behind the American defense to score the opening goal in just the fifth minute of play. But eventually the Americans calmed down and ground out a 3-1 win to earn its place in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying, commonly known as the hex.
Continuing their uneven run of form from the semifinal round, the hex started out with a 2-1 loss to Honduras in February of 2013.
Heading into the two March qualifiers, things could not have been much worse for the U.S. For one, the team was beset with injuries. But seemingly far worse, the team was suffering from internal divisions, as only three days before the qualifier against Costa Rica, the now-infamous "Friendly Fire" article by Brian Strauss was published.
However, the team responded with a 1-0 win over Costa Rica on a snow-covered field in Colorado, followed by a 0-0 draw at Estadio Azteca four days later.
In June, qualifying resumed and the U.S. went on a three-game CONCACAF winning streak, with victories over Jamaica, Panama and Honduras. In September, the U.S. lost 3-1 to Costa Rica but followed that up four days later with a 2-0 "Dos a Cero" win over Mexico in Columbus to seal qualification.
Last week, U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann announced a 30-man provisional roster for the World Cup in Brazil. This list will eventually be whittled down to 23 names, but as of now it includes:
Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Anthony Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Nürnberg), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Michael Parkhurst (Columbus Crew), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC)
Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Joe Corona (Tijuana), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Maurice Edu (Philadelphia Union), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Jermaine Jones (Besiktas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)
Player-by-player profiles can be seen here.
The USMNT is managed by Jurgen Klinsmann. As a player, Klinsmann spent 17 seasons in top-flight European football, playing in the Bundesliga, Serie A and the English Premier League. He scored 233 goals in his professional club career and, internationally, earned 108 caps and scored 47 goals for the German national team. He won the World Cup with Germany in 1990 and the European Championship in 1996.
As a manager, Klinsmann led Germany to a third-place finish in the 2006 World Cup and managed Bayern Munich for most of the 2008-09 campaign.
As U.S. manager, Klinsmann has led the Americans to a 28-11-8 record (win-loss-draw format) and the 2013 Gold Cup since taking over in August 2011.
The U.S.'s most well-known player is Landon Donovan, who is the team's all-time leader in both goals and assists.
However, in the past World Cup cycle, the U.S.'s goal-scoring star has been Clint Dempsey, who led all Americans with eight goals in qualifying.
After suffering from a drop in form at the end of the 2013 MLS season and during his loan to Fulham this past winter, Dempsey has opened up his 2014 MLS campaign on fire, scoring eight goals and notching three assists in only nine games played.
Dempsey will also lead the U.S. team to Brazil as its captain.
One to Watch
The key player to watch for the USMNT is Michael Bradley. Bradley is the engine of the U.S. midfield and can contribute in both an attacking and defensive role. If asked to play as a No. 6, Bradley will contribute by covering gaps in the U.S. defense, putting in hard challenges, winning 50/50 balls and kick-starting the U.S. attack out of the defensive third.
If asked to play as a No. 8, Bradley will still do his defensive duties—as he always does—but his offensive contributions will come more into focus. When Bradley is given the freedom to go forward, he links the U.S. back line with both its wide midfielders and its forwards. His unceasing work rate allows him to cover the entire pitch and his passing ability is perhaps the best in the entire CONCACAF region.
World Cup Record
The U.S. will be playing in its seventh straight World Cup and its ninth overall.
The U.S. took third place in the 1930 World Cup—its best finish to date. Four goals were scored by Bert Patenaude, which included the first hat trick in a World Cup, while Tom Florie and Bart McGhee each contributed one goal.
In 1950, despite not advancing out of its group, the U.S. beat tournament favorite England 1-0, with the lone goal being scored by Joe Gaetjens. Gino Pariani, Joe Maca and Frank Wallace also contributed a goal each in the tournament.
Then, after a 40-year gap, the U.S. qualified for the 1990 World Cup, ushering in the modern era of American soccer.
In 1990, the U.S. lost all three matches and did not advance out of the group stage. Goals in the tournament were scored by Paul Caligiuri and Bruce Murray.
In 1994, the U.S. hosted the tournament and went 1-1-1 in group play, with a tie against Switzerland and a victory over Colombia. The U.S. lost 1-0 to eventual champion Brazil in the round of 16. Goals in the tournament were scored by Eric Wynalda and Earnie Stewart.
In the 1998 tournament, the U.S. went 0-3 in group play and was eliminated. The lone goal for the U.S. in the tournament was scored by Brian McBride.
In 2002, the U.S. went 1-1-1 in group play, with a win over Portugal and a tie against host South Korea. The U.S. then beat Mexico 2-0 in the round of 16 and narrowly missed out on a semifinal berth after controversially losing 1-0 to Germany in the quarterfinals. In the tournament, Landon Donovan and Brian McBride each scored twice, while Clint Mathis and John O'Brien each contributed a goal.
In 2006, the U.S. went 0-2-1 in group play with a draw against eventual champions Italy and losses to the Czech Republic and Ghana. The U.S.'s lone goal in the tournament came courtesy of Clint Dempsey.
In 2010, the U.S. went 1-0-2 in group play, tying England and Slovenia and beating Algeria. The U.S. lost to Ghana in the round of 16. In the tournament, Landon Donovan scored three goals, while Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley each scored one.
June 16 – Ghana, 6 p.m. ET
June 22 – Portugal, 6 p.m. ET
June 26 –Germany, 12 p.m. ET
All games will be broadcast on ESPN.
If you'd like to watch the games with fellow U.S. supporters, here is a list of chapters of the supporters' group, The American Outlaws.
Follow me on Twitter @JohnDHalloran
Follow me on Facebook www.facebook.com/AmericanTouchline