USA (The Stars and Stripes)
Third Place: 1 (1930)
Quarter Finals: 1 (2002)
Round of 16: 4 (1934, 1994, 2010, 2014)
Group Stage: 4 (1950, 1990, 1998, 2006)
Current FIFA Ranking: 16
Group B Schedule
Game 1 – Monday 21st November 2022
22:00 Qatar Time/19:00 GMT
Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
Game 2 – Friday 25th November 2022
22:00 Qatar Time/19:00 GMT
Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
Game 3 – Tuesday 29th November 2022
18:00 Qatar Time/15:00 GMT
Al Thumama Stadium, Doha
Having won 7 Gold Cups to almost bring them on par with rivals Mexico (8), the USA also won the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League in 2020 and finished in third place in the first-ever World Cup held in Uruguay in 1930.
Officially formed in 1885, the USA played their first international match (unrecognised) against neighbouring Canada in Newark, New Jersey, falling to a 1-0 defeat. The following year, the Americans defeated the Canadians by the same scoreline to exact revenge. The USA’s first official fixture was against Sweden in 1916 in Stockholm, where the United States won 3-2. The US were invited to participate in the first-ever World Cup in 1930, to be held in Uruguay. Two 3-0 victories over Belgium and Paraguay were sufficient to ensure that the USA progressed to the semi-final stage. Unfortunately for the Americans, they were to run into an extremely Argentina side and promptly lost 6-1, with two of those goals coming from legendary striker Guillermo Stábile.
The USA defeated Mexico in a preliminary game 4-2 to qualify for the 1934 World Cup but were promptly sent packing following a heavy 7-1 defeat to hosts and eventual champions Italy. In solidarity with many countries, the USA refused to enter the 1938 World Cup because of their displeasure at FIFA reneging on their promise of alternate tournament hosting between Europe and South America. FIFA held the 1938 World Cup in France to comply with President Jules Rimet’s wishes.
With the 1942 and 1946 tournaments cancelled, the 1950 World Cup in Brazil was next up. In their opening group game against Spain, the USA led 1-0 until the final 10 minutes before Spain rallied to win 3-1. Next was a daunting match against an England side participating in their first-ever World Cup. England had either refused entry or didn’t enter the first three editions. A famous shock 1-0 victory for the Americans transpired, with centre forward Joe Gaetjens grabbing the winning goal late in the first half. Unfortunately for the US, they were eliminated via a 5-2 defeat to Chile, where they had made the game 2-2 early in the second half.
Period of Decline
The requirement to compete in CONCACAF for just one qualifying berth from 1954 until 1966 would now handicap the development of the US national team. They repeatedly failed to qualify, with Mexico qualifying for each tournament. With American football, baseball, basketball and ice hockey firmly established as leaders among the sports competing for American attention, the depth of talent was insufficient. The lack of exposure to international tournament football also compounded the cycle. Even when CONCACAF was granted two spots for the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, one for the hosts and another for a qualifying nation, El Salvador progressed instead as the US suffered a 3-0 defeat on aggregate to Haiti.
In 1974, it was Haiti’s turn to reach the World Cup proper in a bizarre qualification campaign in which the CONCACAF Championship doubled as the World Cup qualification tournament. The controversy didn’t stop there – regional scheduling ensured that Mexico, USA and Canada were all drawn in the same group. Therefore, somewhat expectedly, the US failed even to make the qualifying tournament. In qualification for 1978, while the same tournament was to double as the qualification tournament again, the scheduling was retooled. Despite Mexico’s advance from the ‘North American Zone’, the USA earned the opportunity to play Canada in a play-off after they had finished level on points and goal difference. Sadly, a 3-0 Canadian victory ended qualification hopes for the Americans.
An expanded 24 (was 16) team format for the 1982 tournament in Spain allocated an additional place for the CONCACAF confederation. Once again, the USA failed to make it through the initial phase against Mexico and Canada. These qualification failures were set against the backdrop of the North American Soccer League (NASL), which was an attempt to popularise the sport in the USA and Canada. Luminaries such as Pele, Johan Cruyff, Franz Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto, Gerd Muller, George Best, Johan Neeskens, Bobby Moore and Giorgio Chinaglia were recruited – often in the twilight of their careers – to give the league some star power and hopefully raise standards. While the league folded in 1985, soccer, as the game is known popularly in the US, had reached a new audience. With The formation of the MLS in 1996, this was to pay dividends later on.
Return to the World Cup and USA ’94
Once again, the USA failed to reach the latter stages of the CONCACAF qualification tournament in 1985. Progress was within their own hands, but they were to suffer a disappointing 1-0 home defeat to Costa Rica, eliminating them from Mexico ’86. With Mexico banned from the 1990 World Cup in Italy due to knowingly using at least four overage players in an under-20 tournament, the United States seized their opportunity by qualifying as runners-up. In a crucial final match with Trinidad and Tobago, Paul Caligiuri scored the decisive goal in a 1-0 victory to ensure that the US would participate in their first World Cup tournament for 40 years. The tournament itself was to prove a painful experience, with the US suffering three consecutive defeats, including a 5-1 mauling at the hands of Czechoslovakia.
In 1994 the USA were handed a major opportunity to develop their domestic game and to show the world that they could embrace the one truly global sport – they were to host the 1994 World Cup. Following a 1-1 draw with Switzerland thanks to Eric Wynalda’s first-half equaliser, the US defeated Colombia 2-1 thanks to a goal from Earnie Stewart. However, there was also an own goal from Colombian centre-back Andres Escobar. Escobar was sadly murdered shortly after returning to Colombia as a direct consequence of that own goal. The USA lost the final group game to Romania 1-0 but progressed from the group in third place. In the second round, the Americans held eventual champions Brazil at 0-0 until the 72nd minute, when a strike from Bebeto clinched a 1-0 win. The tournament was a huge success and significantly boosted the profile of the game. However, the US still struggle with a relatively shallow talent pool for a major nation, owing to the popularity of other sports.
The World Cups of 2002 and 2006
With the World Cup expanding again to 32 teams, qualification became more accessible than ever before, and, as a result, the US qualified for their third successive World Cup tournament in France ’98. Controversy dogged the team in the build-up to the tournament as captain John Harkes was exiled from the squad. The Americans consequently lost all three group games against Germany, Iran and Yugoslavia, scoring only once. Under new coach Bruce Arena, the US were again represented on the world stage in 2002, this time in Japan and South Korea. The USA opened with a famous 3-2 victory over Portugal, having raced into a three-goal lead courtesy of John O’Brien, Brian McBride and a Jorge Costa own goal. A 1-1 draw with South Korea ensured that the US had qualification for the knockout stages in their own hands. A disappointing 3-1 defeat to Poland was immaterial in the end as South Korea defeated Portugal to top the group and ensure that the USA qualified with four points.
Facing old rivals Mexico in the second round, the USA progressed to the quarter-finals through McBride and Landon Donovan goals to win 2-0 and set up a meeting with Germany. A 39th-minute Michael Ballack goal was enough to secure passage for the Germans, with the Americans controversially denied a penalty after Torsten Frings appeared to handle a Gregg Berhalter goal bound effort. Unfortunately for the United States, it was apparent that a repeat of 2002’s heroics was not on the cards in 2006 as they fell to a comprehensive 3-0 defeat against the Czech Republic in their opening match. Surprisingly, the Americans were able to secure a 1-1 draw against eventual champions Italy to give themselves a chance of qualifying for the knockout rounds for the second tournament in a row if they could beat Ghana. However, it was the Ghanaians who emerged from the group stage thanks to a 2-1 victory.
Following the expiration of Arena’s contract, Bob Bradley took charge in early 2007. The Americans got off to a good start under Bradley’s tenure, winning the Gold Cup in 2007 to qualify for the Confederations Cup in 2009. The US impressed during the tournament and reached the final after defeating FIFA number 1 Spain 2-0 in the semi-finals. In the final against Brazil, the US raced into a 2-0 lead courtesy of goals from Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan before Brazil responded with a goal from Luis Fabiano early in the second half. Further goals from Luis Fabiano and Lucio were to prevent the US from lifting their first major world trophy.
South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014
Again, the USA qualified for the World Cup finals, this time to be held in South Africa in 2010. Drawn with England, Slovenia and Algeria, a 1-1 draw with a much-fancied England side in the opening group game gave the Americans hope of reaching the second round. Robert Green mishandled Clint Dempsey’s harmless goal-bound effort to cancel out Steven Gerrard’s opener. They started their next game against Slovenia poorly and found themselves 2-0 down at half-time. Second-half goals from Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley gave them a chance going into the final game against Algeria. Despite England leading against Slovenia 1-0, the US were staring elimination in the face as Algeria held them 0-0, but Landon Donovan struck in the 91st minute to send the Americans through. Taking Ghana through to extra time, an Asamoah Gyan strike in the 93rd minute sent the Americans home in the round of 16 via a 2-1 defeat.
Following a 4-2 defeat to Mexico in 2011’s Gold Cup final, Bob Bradley was replaced by former international striker and German national team coach Jürgen Klinsmann. They again qualified for the World Cup in 2014, this time in Brazil. Exacting revenge for their 2010 second-round exit, the US defeated Ghana 2-1 in their opening fixture, with Dempsey and John Brooks goals. The Americans led Portugal 2-1 in their second game through Dempsey and Jermaine Jones before Silvestre Varela’s 95th-minute equaliser earned the Portuguese a point. Despite a 1-0 defeat to Germany in the final group game, the USA progressed to the second round on goal difference. Once again, extra time was on the cards against a talented Belgium side, who eventually broke through in the 93rd minute via a Kevin De Bruyne strike. Romelu Lukaku extended the lead for the Belgians before Julian Green brought the Americans back into the game, but they could not find an equaliser.
Short Decline, Then Cause for Optimism Under Berhalter
The next four years were characterised by a period of decline for the national team. A series of disappointments ensued, including a semi-final Gold Cup exit at the hands of Jamaica and failure to win the third-place match against Panama. There was a short-lived cause for optimism as the US hosted the centenary edition of the Copa America in 2016 and reached the semi-finals. However, some observers pointed out that they lost to the two strongest sides they faced in Colombia and Argentina, 2-0 and 4-0 respectively, before losing the third-placed play-off to Colombia 1-0. It did indeed prove to be an Indian summer as the US lost both their opening group matches in the CONCACAF qualification final group which led to Klinsmann’s dismissal. Former coach Bruce Arena was appointed as his replacement.
Despite an initial upturn in form, the US failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986 after falling to a 2-1 defeat to Trinidad and Tobago, prompting Arena’s resignation. Following a protracted recruitment process, Gregg Berhalter was appointed in December 2018. With a new group of young talent, including Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Gio Reyna, victories in the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League and a further Gold Cup victory at the expense of Mexico have restored a measure of pride in the national team. Despite finishing third in qualification, the consensus is that progress has been made. They will look to do well in Qatar in a group including England, Iran, and Wales.
Road to Qualification
CONCACAF Third Round Group: 3rd
Record: Played14 W:7 D:4 L:3 F:21 A:10 GD:+11 Points:25
Date of Qualification: 30th March 2022
Qualification was more complex than the Americans would have liked as they only avoided an inter-confederation play-off on goal difference. However, an undefeated home record ultimately ensured their progression. Some concerning away performances, including 2-0 defeats to both Canada and Costa Rica and a 1-0 loss in Panama, meant that qualification was hard-earned. However, the 2-0 defeat to Costa Rica was almost a dead rubber in the final group game due to superior goal difference. The US had all but secured their qualification in some style in the penultimate group game – a 5-1 home victory over Panama, which featured a Pulisic hat-trick.
Meet the Coach: Gregg Berhalter (age 49)
Former international Berhalter was appointed in December 2018 and was charged with restoring some pride to an under-performing national team with young players breaking through at some of Europe’s top clubs. His playing career took in spells in the Netherlands, England and Germany and a spell in the MLS towards the end of his career. Then, Berhalter became the second American to manage a European club when he took charge of Sweden’s Hammarby IF for 19 months. A return to the MLS with Columbus Crew beckoned. In 2015 Berhalter’s men reached the final of the MLS Cup, with a 2-1 home defeat against the Portland Timbers denying him his first piece of silverware. He will hope to play good football in Qatar.
Possible Starting XI and Style of Play
While the US have succeeded under Berhalter in becoming a more ball-dominant team with a measure of defensive control, their attacking output can be disjointed at times. This is perhaps due to a lack of minutes for some of their bigger talents, who are often stuck on the bench for their clubs. The US are expected to adhere to Berhalter’s vision of establishing a more modern brand of football in American footballing culture and, therefore, will most likely line up in a 4-3-3 formation. The onus is on Sergino Dest and Antonee Robinson to create overloads, with Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah bursting from midfield to support talented wide men Christian Pulisic and Brenden Aaronson. Jesus Ferreira should start up front though Josh Sargent and target man Haji Wright are also options. Timothy Weah and Giovanni Reyna are exciting options from the bench.
Goalkeepers: Matt Turner, Sean Johnson, Ethan Horvath
Defenders: Cameron Carter-Vickers, Sergino Dest, Aaron Long, Shaq Moore, Tim Ream, Antonee Robinson, Joe Scally, DeAndre Yedlin, Walker Zimmerman
Midfielders: Brenden Aaronson, Kellyn Acosta, Tyler Adams, Luca de la Torre, Weston McKennie, Yunus Musah, Cristian Roldan
Forwards: Jesus Ferreira, Jordan Morris, Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna, Joshua Sargent, Timothy Weah, Haji Wright
Date and Place of Birth: (18.09.1988, Hershey, Pennsylvania)
Current Club: Chelsea
Identified as the USA’s pre-eminent attacker and possibly best player in recent history, Pulisic’s form will be crucial to the Americans’ chances of progressing through a group that’s tougher than perhaps meets the eye. Possessing an excellent first touch to complement his searing pace, Pulisic is difficult to keep quiet for 90 minutes and will be counted upon to make the difference in tight games. Former coach Thomas Tuchel has claimed that Pulisic’s fearlessness with the ball and his pace and technical gifts make for a wonderful combination. Indeed, Pulisic is integral to anything good the Americans do this summer.
Date and Place of Birth: (28.08.1998, Fort Lewis, Washington)
Current Club: Juventus
After deciding to sign with the academy side at Germany’s Schalke 04 in 2016, McKennie quickly rose to prominence and was a member of the first-team squad the following year. By establishing a reputation in the Bundesliga as a high-energy midfielder capable of playing both a box-to-box role and a holding role in midfield, McKennie earned an initial loan move to Juventus following Schalke’s relegation, with the Italian club having the option of a permanent transfer. McKennie impressed and earned a permanent move after being used in various positions, including as a Mezzala. This is a more attacking role than he was used to in the past. His energy, movement and passing ability have marked him as both a stable presence in midfield and a goal threat, as he often arrives in the box via a run from deep.
Date and Place of Birth: (22.10.2001, Medford, New Jersey)
Current Club: Leeds United
Another product of academy football as opposed to the more traditional college route normally taken for American sports talents, Aaronson made his breakthrough as a teenager with MLS side Philadelphia Union. There, he was used primarily in a creative role as a number 10. His performances earned him a call-up to the national team and attracted the attention of Austria’s Red Bull Salzburg, with the Austrians signing Aaronson for a record fee for a homegrown American player. Aaronson established himself as a vital player for Salzburg. As a result, he completed a move to Premier League side Leeds United for a reported £24.7 million. Blessed with technical ability coupled with a high defensive work rate, he has been dubbed the ‘Medford Messi’.