Where Does USA's World Cup 2014 Campaign Rank in Their All-Time Performances?
With the United States men's national team now out of the 2014 World Cup, it's time to reflect on where their performance ranks in terms of the team's all-time World Cup performances.
Since 1930, the USMNT has appeared in 10 World Cups. Here's how they rank, according to the team's finish and the impact the tournament had on the game at home.
No. 10: 1998 World Cup
The 1998 World Cup was a mess for the United States.
Prior to the tournament, head coach Steve Sampson was forced to drop captain John Harkes because of an alleged affair with teammate Eric Wynalda's wife. Ironically, Sampson had previously declared that Harkes was the USMNT's "Captain for Life."
Sampson brought French defender David Regis onto the team, who was naturalized only days before the tournament began. This forced veteran Jeff Agoos to the bench, where he joined fellow World Cup veterans Wynalda, Alexi Lalas and Marcelo Balboa for most of the tournament.
The U.S. went on to lose all three games, scoring only one goal against Iran in the 87th minute while already down 2-0.
In Team USA's 2-0 loss to Germany in the opening game, Jurgen Klinsmann, who would eventually go on to coach the American side, scored one of the goals.
No. 9: 1934 World Cup
The U.S. qualified for the 1934 World Cup via a win over Mexico in a game held in Rome only three days before tournament began. However, it was a short-lived victory as the tournament format in 1934 began in the round of 16, where the U.S. lost 7-1 to host Italy.
No. 8: 2006 World Cup
With the U.S. ranked No. 4 in the world in the spring of 2006 and having reached the quarterfinals in 2002, expectations were sky high for the Americans heading into the 2006 tournament.
However, the U.S. looked naive in a 3-0 loss to the Czech Republic in the opening game before tying with eventual champion Italy 1-1 in its second match. The game against Italy featured three red cards (two for the Americans) and a nasty elbow to the face of U.S. forward Brian McBride.
The U.S. then lost 2-1 to Ghana in its final group-stage game, which sealed their elimination.
No. 7: 1990 World Cup
On the positive side, the U.S. qualified for the 1990 World Cup—its first World Cup appearance in 40 years.
However, the U.S. lost all three games in the tournament, 5-1 to Czechoslovakia, 1-0 to hosts Italy and 2-1 to Austria.
The goal scored against Czechoslovakia was scored by Paul Caligiuri, who had helped the U.S. qualify with his "shot heard 'round the world" goal in a 1-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago.
The 1990 team helped set stage for the 1994 World Cup, hosted in the United States.
No. 6: 1950 World Cup
The USMNT's 1950 World Cup is best known for the team's 1-0 win over England thanks to a goal by Joe Gaetjens. It was also the first World Cup since 1938—the 1942 and 1946 editions were not held because of World War II.
However, other than the shock win over England, it was not a great tournament for the U.S. They lost 3-1 to Spain and 5-2 to Chile in their other group matches and did not advance to the final round.
Interestingly enough, the final round was not played as a knockout round, but as a round-robin.
No. 5: 2010 World Cup
The story of Team USA's 2010 World Cup is a series of "what ifs?" In the 2009 Confederations Cup, the U.S. had beaten Spain and gone up 2-0 in the final against Brazil before losing 3-2. However, before the tournament, the U.S. lost three key players to injury in Stuart Holden, Oguchi Onyewu and Charlie Davies.
Holden and Onyewu made it back in time for the tournament, but they didn't make a significant impact. In the injured players' stead, the U.S. relied largely upon Robbie Findley, Ricardo Clark and Jay DeMerit. Findley was ineffective up top, Clark made several key errors that hurt the U.S. cause, and DeMerit, while playing well, struggled at times with the pace of the U.S.'s opponents.
The U.S. tied England 1-1, Slovenia 2-2 and beat Algeria 1-0 in group play to finish at the top of their group, battling through two wrongly disallowed goals in the process.
In the round of 16, the U.S. was unceremoniously dumped out of the tournament by Ghana.
No. 4: 1930 World Cup
The 1930 World Cup was the inaugural tournament. In it, there was no qualification process—all FIFA nations were invited.
The U.S. won both of its group-stage matches 3-0 over Belgium and Paraguay, with Bert Patenaude recording the first hat-trick in World Cup history.
The U.S. advanced to a knockout round of four teams, where they lost 6-1 to Argentina.
Although there was no third-place game in those days, FIFA declared the U.S. as the third-place finisher.
No. 2 (tie): 1994 World Cup
The U.S. hosted the 1994 World Cup. In it, they tied Switzerland 1-1 in their opening match before beating Colombia 2-1 in their second game.
The U.S. advanced to the knockout round and lost to eventual champions Brazil 1-0 in the round of 16.
The flag-draped scenes from the 1994 World Cup helped kick-start soccer in America in the modern era.
Major League Soccer launched in 1996 on the back of the USMNT's 1994 success.
No. 2 (tie): 2014 World Cup
Led by head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, the U.S. took a largely unproven roster to Brazil in 2014. In their opening match, they finally beat Ghana in a World Cup with dramatic goals in the first minute of play and the 86th minute of play. They nearly beat Portugal before conceding a crushing 95th minute equalizer to finish 2-2, and lost to Germany in the final group-stage game.
In the round of 16, they were beaten by a talented Belgian side, despite the heroic efforts of American goalkeeper Tim Howard.
However, much like the 1994 run, the 2014 run saw a massive groundswell of support in the U.S. and looks to have been another watershed moment for the game in America.
No. 1: 2002 World Cup
In 2002, the U.S. beat one of the pre-tournament favorites, Portugal, in their opening match. Combined with a tie against hosts South Korea, the U.S. made it to the knockout round.
The tournament saw the emergence of Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley, and made Brian McBride and a mohawked Clint Mathis household names. Goalkeeper Brad Friedel was so terrific in the tournament, he was nicknamed "The Human Wall."
The U.S. beat Mexico 2-0 in the round of 16 but lost to the Germans in the quarterfinals. In a match that many pundits said the U.S. dominated, a goal by Michael Ballack and an uncalled handball on the line by Torsten Frings proved to be the difference. The U.S. lost 1-0, but achieved its best World Cup finish in the modern era.
Follow me on Twitter @JohnDHalloran
Follow me on Facebook www.facebook.com/AmericanTouchline