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The USA will miss Russia’s World Cup Party

Friday 13th October 2017
Defeat to Trinidad and Tobago on Wednesday coupled with Panama's 2-1 victory over Costa Rica means that the US, for the first time since 1986, will not be at the World Cup finals next summer.

As the World Cup qualifying reached its exciting finale over the recent international weekend and the race for Russia neared its conclusion, focus worldwide was on Argentina on the brink of elimination, the mighty Dutch missing out and, closer to home, failure for Wales and Scotland. Meanwhile, in the less profile North / Central America group, there was another big casualty with the elimination of the USA.

The USA's World Cup journey

I say big casualty as US football or ‘Soccer' has come a long way since successfully hosting the tournament back in 1994. It is true, in the 1990 World Cup the US were seen as group cannon fodder, finishing bottom of Group A with 3 defeats including a 5-1 thrashing to Czechoslovakia.

Despite a blip in 1998, the USA has had an impressive record at World Cups. In 2002 they emerged from a group that included Portugal and Poland, only to lose narrowly to finalists Germany in the quarter-finals.

They held eventual winners Italy to a 1-1 draw in 2006 while in South Africa the States topped England's group before losing to Ghana in extra time in the last 16.

It was at the last World Cup in Brazil that the US team really cemented their reputation as a footballing nation. Qualifying from the ‘Group of death', the US took one of the tournament favourites Belgium all the way in an absorbing contest in Salvador. Matching Belgium toe to toe they could count themselves unlucky to end up losing 2-1 after extra time. Back home their courageous performances had captured the public imagination as fans gathered in homes, bars, and fan parks, with increasing enthusiasm with each game.

Football fever had finally landed in America.

A proud and upwardly mobile World Cup journey the US had become part the World Cup fabric and their presence will be missed in 2018.

So what went wrong?

Captain Michael Bradley described it as ‘the perfect storm' where a dominant US conceded a freak own goal and a wonder goal in a 2-1 defeat to Trinidad and Tobago. Meanwhile surprise victories for both Honduras, over group leaders Mexico, and Panama beating 2nd place Costa Rica (both coming from behind) left the US in 5th place in the table.

US despair was Panama's joy as the footballing minnows reached their first ever World Cup and a national holiday to boot. Their victory came via a disputed equaliser and an 88th-minute winner on a night when nothing went right for the USA.

What next for football in the USA?

The repercussions of US failure are hard to predict and will only come to light once the World Cup is upon us. For a nation with a fragile relationship with football, you imagine that a World Cup without the US competing will be a major turn off for the watching public at home.

Nevertheless, the MLS has gone from strength to strength and has acquired a loyal and sizable supporter base, while junior level and academies remain strong. The English Premier League is followed with interest.

Hopefully, a blip and the nation will emerge better and stronger ready for a serious assault on Qatar 2022.
Allan Kemp

Born in Suffolk but a Norwich City supporter who is currently exiled in Dallas, US. I am an FA level 2 coach and also a published author, my book of Hall of fame - Norwich City's - All-Time Greats is available from all good bookshops. I am now working on my second book, with Pitch Publishing - Newcastle United Hall of Fame. I'm also a keen reader of football-related books.

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