History of the United States Men's Soccer Team

U.S. Soccer in the 21st Century

2002 World Cup quarter-finalists

The U.S. rebounded from the disappointment of 1998 to qualify for the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea, where a new generation of players would lead the team to its best finish since 1930. More amazingly, many Americans were willing to wake up in the early hours of the morning to watch the games on television.

The U.S. opened the tournament with an upset of Portugal, eventually advancing to the second round and defeating archrival Mexico to reach the quarterfinals. Though the team lost 1-0 to Germany, it was internationally lauded for its attractive attacking style in the game. "World Cup 2002 finally showed the planet that the US are capable of playing quality football at the highest level. ...The United States can now truly lay claim to being correctly identified as an emerging football nation," wrote the BBC.

In the same year, at the sixth edition of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the U.S. achieved its second title in a 2-0 win over Costa Rica in the final match.

2006 World Cup Failure

Building on the World Cup victory over Mexico, the U.S. won the 2005 Gold Cup and finished in the top of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2006 World Cup, establishing itself at the top team in North America. Expectations for the World Cup were again high, but the U.S. would disappoint.

Drawn into the "Group of Death" with the Czech Republic, Italy and Ghana, the U.S. could only manage a draw against Italy in a hard-fought game marked by three red cards. Though a dubious refereeing decision contributed to their loss against Ghana, it didn't disguise the fact that the team wasn't as good as advertised.

"We've got a long way to go to be consistently competitive with the best teams in the world," said Sunil Gulati, president of U.S. Soccer.

CONCACAF Gold Cup 2007

In the summer of 2007, Coach Bob Bradley led the Men's National Team into the CONCACAF Gold Cup: the championship tournament of CONCACAF region. The United States won their 3 games in the group stage to win Group B with 9 points. They scored 7 goals without conceding in Group B. They then moved onto the elimination round and defeated Panama 2-1 in the quarter-finals. The United States then played Canada in the semi-finals and relied on 2 first half goals to win the game 2-1. This set up a championship match between the United States and Mexico at Soldier Field in Chicago. The United States trailed 1-0 at halftime following a late goal by Mexico's Andrés Guardado. The United States tied the game at 1-1 in the second half with a penalty from Landon Donovan. They then took the lead with an impressive volleyed strike from Benny Feilhaber. They held on to win the game 2-1 for their second straight Gold Cup title. The United States finished the tournament with a perfect 6-0-0 record and had the best goal differential in the tournament: +10 goals.

By winning the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup in a dramatic final against Mexico, the USA became the first team to qualify for the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup (discounting the automatically qualified hosts and reigning FIFA World Cup champions Italy).

Copa América 2007

Copa América - also known as the America Cup - is a tournament hosted by CONMEBOL (Confederation of South American Football). Since 2007 the tournament will occur every four years. Since Bob Bradley has come to the United States National team, the team have played three matches in this tournament. The Copa América games were played very shortly after the Gold Cup, so the majority of the players who played in the Copa matches were the substitutes for the team. These three matches were against Argentina, Paraguay, and Colombia; all loses for the American team. The team failed to advance out of the group stage and many blamed Bob Bradley for bringing a weakened squad to the tournament.

The road to South Africa

In 2008, Bob Bradley started his team's quest to appear in the 2010 World Cup by competing in the CONCACAF 2010 World Cup Qualifications. The United States started their qualification for the 2010 World Cup by receiving a bye in the first round due to being the top rated team in the CONCACAF region. In the second round, they faced Barbados in a 2-leg competition where each team plays one home game and one away game. The United States started off emphatically by defeating Barbados 8-0 at home in the first-leg. They followed up by winning 1-0 in an away game for the second leg to beat Barbados 9-0 on aggregate. This propelled the team to the third round of qualification which features groups of four teams each. The United States beat Guatemala and Cuba two times each, and split their games against Trinidad and Tobago to finish 5-0-1. They ended with 15 points to finish in first place in Group 1 which advanced them to fourth round of qualification.

In Round 4, the final six teams in the CONCACAF region had a double-round-robin tournament (you play each team in one home game and one away game, the top three teams qualifying for the 2010 World Cup). The U.S. started off with their first game against Mexico which they knew would be an intense and hard-fought game. The U.S. scored late in the first half thanks to a heads-up play by the coach's son, Michael Bradley. The U.S. defended their lead throughout the second half until Michael Bradley sealed the win with his second goal of the game in the final minute of stoppage time. The U.S. played El Salvador in their second game and fell behind 2-0 and looked ready to lose. However, they bounced back with two late second half goals to earn a 2-2 draw. In their third match against Trinidad and Tobago, the U.S. scored early and kept the pressure on to win 3-0 thanks to a hat-trick from teenager Jozy Altidore.

As of October 13, 2009, the United States reached the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa by qualifying in first place in the final six-team Hexagonal phase of North, Central America and Caribbean Zone qualifying. In the same year the U.S. finished second at the FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa.

2010 World Cup

The United States formed part of Group C of the 2010 World Cup, alongside England, Algeria and Slovenia. Only England and the United States had previously met at a World Cup: in 1950, when the United States defeated England 1-0. After tying matches against England (1-1) and Slovenia (2-2), USA beat Algeria through an injury time goal and thus won Group C, the first time that the USA has won its World Cup group since 1930. As group winners, the United States advanced to face Group D runners-up, Ghana in the knockout stage (round of 16), losing to Ghana 2-1.

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