History of the United States Men's Soccer Team

Rebirth of American Soccer: the 1990s

In 1989, FIFA named the United States hosts of the 1994 World Cup, but it did so under significant international criticism because of the perceived weakness of the national team and the lack of a professional outdoor league. This criticism diminished somewhat when a 1-0 win against Trinidad and Tobago, the U.S.'s first away win in nearly two years, in the last match of the 1989 CONCACAF Championship, earned the United States their first World Cup appearance in 40 years.

In March 1991, the United States won the North America Cup and in May the World Series of Soccer. The national team then went undefeated in the 1991 CONCACAF Gold Cup. In 1992, the U.S. continued their run of success, taking the U.S. Cup with victories over Ireland and Portugal, followed by a draw with Italy.

In February 1993, U.S. Soccer held the first-ever Strategic Summit where more than 250 soccer leaders and personalities met in Chicago for four days to plan the development of soccer into the 21st century. U.S. Cup '93 was used as a dress rehearsal for World Cup organizers, officials and volunteers, as well as the U.S. National Team. The USA's 2-0 defeat of England made headlines around the world.

Hosting the 1994 World Cup

The U.S., with a distinct lack of soccer tradition, was a controversial choice to host the World Cup, but the tournament was a great success. An average of nearly 69,000 fans -- still a World Cup-record -- turned out for the games, and the U.S. team exceeded expectations. Soccer fever in the United States was at all-time high. Having qualified automatically as host, the U.S. opened their tournament schedule with a 1-1 draw against Switzerland in the Pontiac Silverdome in the suburbs of Detroit, the first World Cup game played indoors. In its second game, the U.S. faced Colombia winning 2-1. Despite a 1-0 loss to Romania in its final group game, the U.S. made it to the knockout round for the first time since 1930. In the second round, the U.S. lost 1-0 to the eventual champion Brazil.

Improvement and 1998 World Cup Disappointment

In 1995, the U.S. Men's National team won the U.S. Cup '95 in June. Major League Soccer debuted in 1996, and though it captured little of the excitement of the World Cup, it did provide a place for American players to play high-level soccer at home. The national team built on its success from the World Cup, beating Argentina in the 1995 Copa América and in 1997 qualified for the 1998 World Cup in France (its third consecutive World Cup), completing their grueling 16-game run with just two losses and advancing with a game to spare. In the 1998 CONCACAF Gold Cup, goalkeeper Kasey Keller made 10 saves in a dramatic 1-0 upset of Brazil.

Expectations were high for the World Cup, but it would be a disastrous tournament for the Americans. After losing the opener to Germany, they suffered an embarrassing loss to Iran, eliminating them from contention. They lost their final group game to Yugoslavia and finished dead last in the 32-team field as many players took shots at coach Steve Sampson.

After World Cup '98 and under the helm of new head coach Bruce Arena, the USMNT records triumphs over Germany (twice), Argentina, Chile, and earns the Bronze medal at the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup in Mexico.

The Early Years | Rebirth of American Soccer| U.S. Soccer in the 21st Century