The USA doesn’t, as a rule, love soccer. At least that’s the common opinion among sportscasters who hail from one of four major American sports. Three of the four “big” sports in the USA were invented here. The USA’s Men’s Soccer League, or MLS, has the youngest fan base of any major American sport, including NASCAR. However, MLS is consistently rated as less appealing than the other American sports, and here’s why.
It’s American soccer that isn’t popular.Every year millions of Americans tune in to British Premier League matches and international competitions like the World Cup. In fact, this is even happening because of the growing love for the game. Because of this, I’m going to remind American soccer fans why the U.S. has a proud international tradition with the nine best moments in U.S. soccer history.
#9 USA Hosts 1998 World Cup
A large part of the narrative of American soccer internationally is the search for recognition of legitimacy on a stage that is in no way revolving around us. World Cup history is one that is especially lopsided with only eight teams winning the title in 19 World Cups. The hosting of the games was no different, as the U.S. sought to prove to the world that our fans can scream just as loud as anyone else, which must substitute for any other form of national fight song so don’t forget to show your pride this time around.
#8 USMT Earns Italian Champs’ Respect in 2006
In what’s certainly one of the most dramatic games in international U.S. soccer history, the U.S. Men’s Team draws in a match against the team who would go on to be the champions of the entire tournament. The Americans were scrapping so tenaciously the entire match that one of the iconic photos of men’s world cup soccer is created: a photo of Brian McBride’s blooded face. The Americans almost won too — if it weren’t for a late-game disallowed goal that not only left the score tied but also left the Americans as the only team that the Italian champions didn’t beat.
#7 USA Shocks Portugal
In a match that pitted the USA against a Portuguese team that hasn’t been the same since, America defeated Portugal 3-2 in what the BBC called one of the World Cup’s greatest upsets. Suddenly, the U.S. was up 3-nil and simply held on for the remaining minutes to close out a great series of moments that prove why the next moment is important.
#6 USA Over-Awed by Brazil in 1998
Okay, so the title doesn’t impress but the consequences have established the entire American run since that match. Watching a brilliant and pragmatic Brazilian team win while a man down on the American Independence Day in Stanford, California left an imprint on the American soccer psyche ever since. American men’s soccer has sought to learn from that moment ever since it happened sixteen years ago and will prove it this year in the Group of Death.
#5 2002 Mexico vs. USA
In the best performance since 1930, the U.S. men’s team reached the quarterfinals only to lose to Germany, the eventual runners up. Although the performance itself was far from spectacular, the no-nonsense method of play has become a hallmark of American men’s soccer. However, it did help to establish a powerful regional rivalry between USA and Mexico from then on.
#4 US Defeats England in 1950
Often called the greatest upset in World Cup History, the American team was composed of part-time players while the English were among the best in Europe at that time. The United States was widely believed to be trounced but in an odd twist of fate, the upset was practically unannounced in either England or the US.
#3 Landon Donovan Scores Against Algeria
Regardless of your opinion of Landon Donovan or his recently announced absence from Team USA in this World Cup circuit, seeing his goal in the 90th minute invigorated American soccer dreams in spite of 90 minutes of incredibly selfish playing. However, the moment itself and the buildup was pretty intense for everyone involved, which is why it’s number three on this list.
# 2 US Women’s Team Wins Initial World Cup in 1991
It shouldn’t be surprising that the most important moments in International American Soccer are when an American hoisted the trophy. American women’s soccer in ’91 was so dominant that they not only won every match but defeated the competition in the final round 7-1. In soccer, that’s a massacre.
#1 USA Wins Women’s World Cup in Shootouts
Although shootouts are traditionally a frowned-upon way to win anything as important as a World Cup, I remember the audience erupting with joy when we were watching live as the shootout went our way. Brandi Chastain made herself an American icon that day with an ecstatic celebration that echoed around the world. The American women’s soccer team has found so much success internationally that it’s comparable to Brazil or Germany in the men’s world cup sphere. In fact, America is so dominant in international women’s soccer that Team USA has never placed worse than third since the Women’s World Cup was created in 1991.