How the USA’s Soccer Team has Significantly Improved Over the Years
By Space Coast Daily // November 30, 2022
The United States’ Men’s Soccer Team has been respected among the international football community for some time. The nation are semi-regulars at World Cups and will usually be targeting the knockout stages.
This wasn’t always the case: Like a number of international sides, USMNT had to evolve and were once considered among the ‘minnows’ of the game. Here’s how United States soccer has improved from those early days at the end of the 19th century.
The United States qualified for the 2022 World Cup and coach Gregg Berhalter was aiming to take his team deep into the tournament. USMNT were placed in a tough group with England, Wales and Iran, but Wales’ shock defeat to the Iranians handed an advantage to Berhalter and his team.
The US attract attention among the betting community and there was some interest in the Group B winner markets. Key players such as Christian Pulisic of Chelsea and Leeds United’s Tyler Adams feature on a weekly basis in premier league betting lists.
There is respect from bettors and fans alike and this represents something of a transformation from the early days.
The United States and Canada played internationally from 1885 onwards. The US, however, were not recognized by the sport’s governing body until 1916 when the team played its first official game.
Sweden were the opponents as the United States soccer team traveled to Stockholm to earn a 3-2 victory.
The United States were also present at the very first World Cup in 1930 and they reached the semifinals. This remains their best result in soccer’s global tournament, but we shouldn’t read too much into it.
Only 13 teams took part in the competition due to an initial lack of interest around the established nations.
After the Second World War, the US suffered their biggest defeat in a full international. An 11-0 loss to Norway in Oslo put the team’s strength into some context. In an era where the sport was becoming increasingly professional, the United States soccer squad contained a mixed bunch of amateurs.
School teachers and dishwashers were among those who took their place in the side. It wasn’t the most competitive US team in history, but it was one that was about to shake the world.
The Biggest Upset of All Time?
The US team traveled to the 1950 World Cup in Brazil. Qualification could have been seen as an achievement, but the route to the finals was a relatively easy one. In a qualifying section with Mexico and Chile, USMNT progressed despite winning only one of their four games.
The team was drawn against a mighty England side containing world class individuals such as Billy Wright, Stan Mortensen and Stanley Matthews. The Three Lions were red hot favorites, but were dispatched 1-0, thanks to a goal from unlikely hero Joe Gaetjens.
It’s been described as one of the biggest ever shocks in world football, which tends to underline the US’ standing in the game at that time.
Other Notable Scalps
That win over England in 1950 ranks as one of the best results in USMNT’s history. Other notable scorelines include a 1-0 win over the mighty Brazil at the 1998 Gold Cup and a 2-1 defeat of Colombia at the 1994 World Cup.
Those were isolated performances, but the team has enjoyed more consistent success in the modern era.
The Global Stage
The biggest turning point in the history of United States soccer came in 1994 when the country hosted the World Cup. Organizers within the country knew that they had to take the sport seriously and that’s also the time when the elite division was formed.
Major League Soccer enjoyed its debut season in 1996 and has since seen some significant expansion. MLS has seen some of the biggest names in the sport feature for franchise teams. David Beckham, David Villa, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney and Robbie Keane are among the top stars to have played here.
It’s felt in some quarters that while those players enjoyed their time in MLS, their influence helped many of the younger domestic players to develop.
Since that 1994 tournament, USMNT have qualified for the World Cup in all but one of the seven subsequent editions. Their best result came in 2002 when Head Coach Bruce Arena guided the team to the quarter finals.
Regular appearances in World Cups will help to earn that respect. Since 1994, the US’ record has been solid, and it proves that investment in the game and the establishment of MLS has paid off.
How far can USMNT go?
The United States don’t have to worry about qualification for the 2026 World Cup. As one of the co-hosts, they are guaranteed a place in the finals. Home advantage is an obvious benefit, and the team will be targeting the knockout rounds once again.
A World Cup win is the ultimate dream, but those consistent performances at previous tournaments have earned USMNT the respect of the soccer world.