United States Profile

Major Honours CONCACAF Gold Cup (7)
Year Founded 1885

A growing force in international soccer? The US are certainly a team to watch for the future. Planet Sport takes an in-depth look at their past, their successes and their struggles.

The United States men's national team played the first-ever international match outside the United Kingdom in 1885 when they lost 1-0 to Canada in Newark, New Jersey.

The next year, the two teams again played in Newark, and the US won 1-0, but neither game was officially recognised. The first recognised game came in 1916 when the US beat Sweden 3-2 in Stockholm.

Managed by Scotland native Robert Millar, the US took third place at the first-ever FIFA World Cup in Uruguay in 1930. They played in three of the first four World Cups before a 40-year hiatus.

Since 1990 when Bob Gansler led them to the World Cup in Italy, the US have appeared in eight of nine tournaments. Their best finish in that stretch was a quarter-final appearance in 2002.

The United States hosted the 1994 World Cup, a landmark event for the sport around the country. They will co-host the 2026 World Cup with Mexico and Canada, with the finals scheduled to be played in the US.

The US team did not qualify for the Gold Cup (known as the CONCACAF Championship before 1991) from 1963 to 1985. Since 1989, they have finished first or second in 13 of 17 Gold Cups, winning seven championships.

In the Summer Olympics, the US team won the silver and bronze medals in the 1904 Games but have not medaled since.

They qualified for 10 of 14 Olympics before the event became a U-23 tournament in 1992. The U-23 team have qualified for four of the eight Olympics since 1992 with a fourth-place finish in 2000.

In recent years their biggest success came when winning the 2019/20 CONCACAF Nations League, beating great rivals Mexico in the final.

Early years at the World Cup

With Robert Millar in charge since 1922, the US qualified for the inaugural World Cup in 1930.

The tournament was played in Uruguay, and Scottish-born Bart McGhee scored the Americans' first-ever World Cup goal in a 3-0 group stage win over Belgium.

Bert Patenaude scored the first-ever World Cup hat-trick in the next group game, a 3-0 win over Paraguay. In the knockout round, the US lost 6-1 to Argentina and finished in third place based on overall tournament records.

This third-place finish is still the highest ever for any CONCACAF team and the only time a team outside of South America or Europe has finished in the top three.

In the 1934 World Cup, there wasn't a group stage, just a knockout round. The US lost in the Round of 16 to hosts Italy 7-1. The US withdrew from 1938 qualifying and the next two World Cups were canceled due to World War II.

'The Miracle on Grass'

In 1950, under new coach Bill Jeffrey, a group of young American semi-pros went to Brazil after losing an exhibition match to England 6-1.

They fell in the opening group game to Spain 3-1 with their only goal being scored by Gino Pariani.

Against England in the second game, Joe Gaetjens scored in the 38th minute and the US held on for a 1-0 victory. The result has gone down in history as the 'Miracle on Grass'.

The win is considered one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history, but the US lost the next game 5-2 to Chile and did not advance from the group stage.

The win didn't put soccer in the US on the map though, and the national team missed the next nine World Cups. They narrowly missed out in 1986 with a 1-0 loss to Costa Rica in the final qualifying game.

Return to the World Cup

With Gansler coaching, the team finally returned to the World Cup in 1990 with an away win over Trinidad and Tobago in the final qualifying game.

They lost all three group games in Italy with defeats to Austria, Italy and Czechoslovakia.

That 1990 tournament set the groundwork for future success though, with goalkeepers Tony Meola and Kasey Keller, defender Marcelo Balboa, midfielders John Harkes, Tab Ramos and Paul Caligiuri, and forward Eric Wynalda on the roster.

1994 home World Cup

The 1994 World Cup was a watershed moment for soccer in the United States as the country hosted for the first time.

United States, Claudio Reyna, 2002

The tournament broke attendance records with an average of 68,991, and the final between Brazil and Italy was played in front of 94,194 fans at the Rose Bowl.

The American team under coach Bora Milutinovic played well, and players like Alexi Lalas and Cobi Jones emerged as faces of the sport with endorsement deals.

After a 1-1 draw against Switzerland, the US beat Colombia 2-1 and fell to Romania 1-0, advancing to the knockout round.

In the Round of 16, they fought to the end against eventual champions Brazil on July 4, US Independence Day. Meola made a handful of saves, but the US had no offense and lost 1-0 through a goal in the 72nd minute.

Major League Soccer grew out of the success of the 1994 World Cup, but the national team couldn't capitalize. Under coach Steve Sampson, they went 0-3 in the 1998 World Cup group stage and finished 32nd out of 32 teams.

New millennium, new success

In 2002, a new wave of young players emerged and led the US to their best World Cup finish since 1930.

Led by coach Bruce Arena and goalkeeper Brad Friedel, the US opened with a 3-2 win over Portugal as Brian McBride scored the third goal.

Clint Mathis found the net in a 1-1 draw against hosts South Korea and Landon Donovan scored his first World Cup goal in a 3-1 loss to Poland.

The Round of 16 brought a CONCACAF clash against rivals Mexico. McBride scored in the eighth minute and Donovan scored in the second half for a 2-0 upset win. The run ended in the quarter-finals with a 1-0 loss to Germany.

The 2006 tournament in Germany did not go well for the Americans. A 3-0 loss to the Czech Republic opened group play before an own goal helped the US draw 1-1 against Italy.

Clint Dempsey got his first World Cup goal in the group stage finale, but the US were eliminated with a 2-1 defeat to Ghana. This saw Arena replaced as manager.

Bob Bradley led the American side into the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. A largely veteran team mixed in World Cup newcomers like goalkeeper Tim Howard, forward Jozy Altidore, and midfielder Michael Bradley.

Dempsey scored in a 1-1 draw against England before Donovan and Bradley scored in a 2-2 tie against Slovenia.

The US had to win the final group game to advance, and they did just that when Donovan scored the goal heard around the US in the 91st minute against Algeria.

The team fell in the Round of 16 in controversial fashion against Ghana 2-1 in extra time. Donovan scored the goal, but the Americans had another ruled out for offside.

Jurgen Klinsmann took charge as the manager for the 2014 World Cup cycle, and the US qualified for a seventh straight time.

They beat Ghana 2-1 and drew against Portugal 2-2 in the first two group games as Dempsey scored in both. A 1-0 loss to Germany led to a second-place group finish and a spot in the final 16.

In the knockout round, Howard broke a World Cup record with 15 saves as the game against Belgium was scoreless after 90 minutes. Belgium won in extra time 2-1, with the American goal coming from Julian Green in the 107th minute.

Crisis years, promising future

Klinsmann was let go during the 2018 World Cup qualifying cycle and replaced by Arena. It didn't help, and the US embarrassingly failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Following that disappointment, Gregg Berhalter was hired from Columbus Crew.

Young American players like Christian Pulisic (F), Zack Steffen (GK), Sergino Dest (D), Chris Richards (D), Tyler Adams (MF), Weston McKennie (MF), Tim Weah (F), Gio Reyna (F) and Josh Sargent (F) are currently getting domestic experience in Europe and played a crucial part in gaining qualification to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

USA's Christian Pulisic scores against Iran at World Cup

USA qualified from their group in Qatar after a 1-1 draw with Wales, holding free-scoring England to a 0-0 and finishing with a 1-0 win over Iran. Pulisic grabbed the only goal of the game in the 38th minute when he bravely stole in to convert a headed cross by Dest from point-blank range.

The Netherlands knocked USA out of the World Cup in the round of 16 with 3-1 victory, Haji Wright scoring the consolation goal.

Rivalry with Mexico

The biggest rivalry for the US in international soccer is with their southern neighbours Mexico. The teams first clashed in 1934 and have met 74 times, more than the US has played any other side.

Mexico lead the overall series with 36 wins, compared to USA's 22, with 16 draws.

The US enjoyed their first ever win in Mexico in a 1-0 friendly success at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City in 2012.

'Dos a Cero' has been a common theme of games played in the United States and the chant is a favorite of the American fans. The US beat Mexico in Columbus, Ohio, by scores of 2-0 in 2001, 2005, 2009 and 2013. They also beat Mexico 2-0 in the 2002 World Cup Round of 16.

The teams have met in seven Gold Cup finals, with Mexico winning five times. Until the most recent Gold Cup, the only American win in a Gold Cup final against Mexico came in Chicago in 2007 with goals from Donovan and Benny Feilhaber. Miles Johnson scored in the 117 minute against Mexico in the 2021 Gold Cup final to give the USA their second trophy in just two months. The win was the teams 14th consecutive victory. 

United States beat Mexico 3-2 in after extra time in the innaugural CONCACAF Nations League in 2019/20.

American icons

The US national team has had 16 players make at least 100 caps. Cobi Jones is the most capped player in team history with 164 games between 1992 and 2004. Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley are the only other two with more than 150.

Donovan and Clint Dempsey are tied for the most goals in team history, with 57 each. Dempsey achieved this in 141 games while Donovan played 157 games. Jozy Altidore (42), Eric Wynalda (34) and Brian McBride (30) round out the top five goalscorers in team history.

Jozy Altidore USA men

Donovan holds the team record for assists with 58, distancing himself from Bradley (23), Jones (22) and Dempsey (21).

The US team has a rich tradition of goalkeepers, with Tim Howard, Kasey Keller, Tony Meola and Brad Friedel each making at least 80 appearances.

Howard leads the way with 62 wins, while Keller holds the team record with 47 shutouts. Friedel was part of 24 shutouts and 27 wins, while Meola had 37 shutouts and 32 wins from 1988 to 2006.

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