The United States' history at soccer's biggest event is spotty. After participating - and performing well - in the inaugural World Cup in 1930, Team USA has since been in and out of the event, absent for nearly four decades throughout the 1900s, before returning to being a consistent qualifier ever since.
However, as demonstrated in the last World Cup cycle (Russia 2018), the United States is not guaranteed to participate in the 32-team event, so the pressure was on to secure qualification and return to soccer's most prestigious tournament.
What was the best U.S. performance in World Cup soccer?
Technically, the best U.S. qualification in a men's FIFA World Cup came in 1930 at the inaugural edition. However, that event only featured a four-team knockout stage, meaning there was no round of 16 or quarterfinals.
Since the World Cup was expanded to 16 teams in 1934 and to 32 in 1998, the United States has not advanced past the quarterfinals, reaching them once, in 2002. That tournament marked the only U.S. victory in the knockout stage, against classic CONCACAF rival Mexico.
Why has the United States never won the soccer World Cup?
While the U.S. participated in the inaugural World Cup in 1930 and then reached the Round of 16 in 1934, there was a long gap between 1950 and 1990 in which the U.S. did not qualify for a World Cup.
One of the big reasons why the U.S. did not consistently reach the World Cup finals was that Mexico stood in its way. El Tri always dominated the qualifying group, leaving the United States and Canada out.
As the qualifying format changed over the years, allowing for more teams and expanded North American slots, as well as the fact that the United States began competing more regularly with Mexico, the Americans finally returned to World Cup competition in the 1990s.
Despite missing the 2018 tournament, the Americans are now regular World Cup participants. The next hurdle to overcome is the knockout rounds of the tournament, where Team USA has stumbled on several occasions after falling out of the group. That is the natural next step in the progression of the men's team as it looks to insert itself into the conversation with the established European and South American giants.
Will the United States be at the 2022 World Cup?
It took until the final day of qualifying, but the United States has confirmed its presence at the 2022 men's World Cup, having become one of the last qualifiers for the 32-team event.
The Americans all but clinched a spot by defeating Panama 5-1 in Orlando on the penultimate matchday. And while they celebrated momentarily with a "Qualified" banner after the match, they had to wait until the final match in Costa Rica to mathematically secure their place in Qatar.
The USMNT earned direct passage to the 2022 event by finishing in the top three of the eight-team CONCACAF regional qualifying group, along with Canada and Mexico.
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