Watching an American team or individual compete internationally gives a fan a very different perspective than watching our hometown teams compete. It makes us feel patriotic, gives us a sense of national pride, even though some might suggest us as the ugly Americans. Although other countries might be more patriotic, no one loves a big event like the United States.
The United States opened their 2002 World Cup against one of the tournament favorites, Portugal. Portugal had world superstars Luis Figo from Real Madrid and Rui Costa from AC Milan.
John O'Brien put the U.S. up 1-0 just three minutes into the game. Two more first half goals gave the Eagles an amazing 3-0 first half lead. Portugal scored twice to cut the deficit to 3-2. Led by Goalie Brad Friedel, the U.S. held on for a 3-2 win. The win was the key to their advancement to the knockout stage.
The Americans entered the finals of the 2007 Davis Cup seeking their first title in 12 years. Led by Andy Roddick, James Blake, and the doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan, the United States captured the Cup in Portland, OR.
Along the journey to Michael Phelps' eight gold medals in Beijing, the men's 400 meter relay was a major question mark.
The French were favored to win the event and their superstar Alain Bernard didn't seemed concerned with the U.S. saying "We will crush them."
Jason Lezak swam a final leg for the ages and barely touched the wall ahead of the French to give the U.S. Gold in a world record time of 3:08:24.
Matched up with their CONCACAF arch rivals, this game had all makings of a vicious battle.
Brian McBride scored just eight minutes into the game, Landon Donovan gave the Americans some breathing room and Brad Friedel pitched a shutout as the Americans won an elimination game for the first time ever in the World Cup.
With many blown chances during the game, the United States entered extra time scoreless with Algeria. If the result had remained, the United States would have been eliminated in group stage for the second consecutive World Cup.
Just one minute into extra time, goalie Tim Howard threw an outlet pass to Landon Donovan at midfield. Donovan adeptly dribbled down the right flank. He passed to Jozy Altidore whose shot and then Clint Dempsey's rebound were stopped. With the ball seemingly laying in the box forever, Donovan scored, putting the U.S. ahead 1-0. They survived the final few minutes and won their group for the first time since 1930.
Mention the Miracle on Ice and most American sports fans think of the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics. Twenty years earlier in Squaw Valley, CA the U.S. shocked the hockey world. The U.S. entered the tournament much like they did in 1980, with a bunch of college aged kids.
After a successful preliminary round, the U.S. entered the medal round with two victories. They upset the Soviets 3-2 in their second-to-last medal round game. They had to comeback from a 2-1 deficit (just like 1980). The U.S. victory was the first ever over the Soviets.
This set up a winner-take-all game against Czechoslovakia. Trailing 4-3 entering the third period, they exploded for six third period goals to win 9-4 and capture gold. Bill Christian had a natural hat trick in the third. His son David was a member of the 1980 team.
England entered the 1950 World Cup with 3-1 odds to win the cup, while the U.S. was a barely noticeable 500-1.
American Joe Gaetjens scored a goal in the 37th minute to give the Americans the lead.
Incredibly, Dent McSkimming of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was the only U.S. based writer to cover the World Cup in 1950
John Souza became the first American player to be selected to the World Cup All-Star team and would remain so until Claudia Reyna accomplished the same feat in 2002.
A movie titled "The Game of Their Lives" about the United States improbable victory was released in 2005.
Canada had won every international competition entering the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan. The Americans defeated Canada in group play 7-4 to win the preliminary round with a 5-0 record. Canada finished 4-1 to set up a Gold Medal showdown between the U.S. and Canada.
The Americans scored first on a goal by Gretchen Ulion in the second period to take a 1-0 lead. They extended it to 2-0 on a goal by Shelley Looney nearly halfway through the third. Canadian legend Haley Wickenheiser scored on the power play with four minutes remaining to cut the lead to 2-1.
Canada pressed the net hard in a frantic final few minutes. U.S. goalie Sara Teuting made several clutch saves to keep the U.S. in front. She made one key save with about a minute left that CBS announcer Sean McDonough termed "maybe a Gold Medal Save." After a steal at center ice, Sandra Whyte's empty net clinched the first gold medal in Women's Olympic Ice Hockey for the USA.
In an Olympics that Adolph Hitler hoped would show Aryan superiority, Jesse Owens stared blatant racism in the face and came home with four gold medals. He won the 100 meters, 200 meters, 4x100 meter relay, and the long jump. This feat would not be accomplished again until Carl Lewis earned four golds in the same events in Los Angeles in 1984.
Hitler was annoyed at the victories by someone he claimed came from an inferior race. He felt that the "coloreds" had better physiques than "civilized" whites and should be excluded from future Olympics.
Alexander Karelin was the most prohibitive favorite in any event entering the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Entering Sydney, Karelin hadn't lost in an international competition in 13 years, had won the previous three super heavyweight Greco-Roman Olympic Golds, and hadn't given up a point in six years. To say he was as big of superstar in his sport as there was, is a gross understatement.
Rulon Gardner only had a Junior College National Championship to his resume entering the Olympic battle. His highest finish in an international competition had been fifth before Sydney.
Gardner shocked the crowd by scoring a point in the second round. Three points must be earned to win the match without overtime. After holding the lead through the overtime, Karelin conceded the match with five seconds remaining in the overtime.
Gardner was overcome with emotions after his incredible win. He was screaming with joy, did a cartwheel, and grabbed a fan's American flag and did a victory lap.
This was a win that will likely never be duplicated.
Big events always do well in the United States. Just five years after hosting the Men's World Cup and three years after the Summer Olympics, the United States hosted the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup. The event was the talk of the sporting world in June of 1999.
The numbers showed how much the United States sporting public fell in love with the women of U.S. Soccer. The attendance of 90,185 was the largest attended women's sporting event ever and the 40 million viewers made it at the time the most watched soccer game in United States history.
After a clear by Kristine Lilly off the goal line in extra time, the game went to penalty kicks.
Brianna Scurry made a diving save on China's third round of penalty kicks and gave the U.S. an advantage.
It eventually came down to one last kick by U.S. defender Brandi Chastain. She buried the penalty kick, took off her jersey, leaving her in just a sports bra and the United States earned its second Women's World Cup.
Chastain's celebration is the most famous in the history of women athletics. The image of her on her knees with her jersey off and in just her bra is one American sports fans will remember forever.
The most famous win in American sports' history. The story has been told over and over. Two scripted movies and at least one documentary have been made about the "Miracle on Ice."
The United States government was about announce a boycott of the Summer Olympics later in 1980. This was the aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Because of the political developments, the tension when the USA and the USSR met in the medal round of the ice hockey tournament was probably at an all-time high.
Facing a team of Soviet professionals, American college skaters pulled off the improbable upset. Mark Johnson tied the game with one second remaining in the second period and Mike Eruzione scored the game winner in the third, immortalizing him forever.
Although it's the most well-known American Olympic victory, amazingly, the game was not televised live. The game was originally scheduled for a 5 pm start time. ABC made the decision to air the game on delay in prime time after the Soviets refused to push the start time back to 8 pm. This would have meant a 4 am start time in Moscow.
Thirteen of the United States players went on to successful careers in the National Hockey League. Three players and assistant coach Craig Patrick would later get to hoist the Stanley Cup.
Many credit the country's reaction to the American win to the climate of the times. In addition to being on the verge of war and the Summer Olympic boycott, the economy was also in crisis. The Miracle on Ice game gave virtually every American something to cheer for and be proud of.
The team is still beloved in the United States today and lit the Olympic torch to commence the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.