USMNT World Cup Run


Francisco Seco, AP

Supporters cheer on the stands before the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between the Netherlands and the United States, at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022

Elias Lilienfeld Quevedo, Student Writer

After an unbeaten run on the group stages at the FIFA World Cup, the American Dream of reaching the quarterfinals ended on Saturday, Dec. 3 with a 3-1 loss to the Netherlands. The USMNT, the second youngest squad in the tournament, is leaving the shores of Qatar holding their heads high, yet there is a little bitterness in the goodbye. After the debacle of not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the American squad was the only team from CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central America, and Caribbean Association Football) who were able to overcome the group stage.

The first game was against a Welsh team that was returning to the biggest stage of world soccer after 64 years of absence. The score ended in a 1-1 draw, with goals from Timothy Weah 36’ and Gareth Bale 82’(P). The USMNT dominated the game and probably should have won. The lack of precision and attacking prowess, as well as a defensive error from center-back Walker Zimmerman, cost the Americans the three points.

The second game was the greatly awaited match against England, the semifinalist of the last World Cup and 2020 European Championship runners-up. This crucial match ended with a score line of 0-0, giving the USMNT a crucial point. This extended USMNT’s record of never losing to the English in a World Cup match.

The third and last match of the group stages was against Iran. This heavily politized match was controversial even before the players got in the pitch. The United States Soccer Federation Twitter account posted an Iranian flag without the Islamic Republic emblem (which is the symbol of the theocracy that rules Iran) to express their sympathy towards the nationwide protests happening in Iran. The Iranian regime accused the U.S. of defacing the flag, asking FIFA for a 10-match ban. Regardless of the controversy, the game was played, with both nations needing a win to pass to the next stage, alongside England. The Americans were able to deliver, with Christian Pulisic scoring the winning goal on the 38’.

Since the Americans qualified as second in their group, they had to face the Netherlands who top their group, which included Senegal (AFCON Champions), the host Qatar, and Ecuador. Sadly, the USMNT could not resist the Clockwork Orange attacks (not to be confused with the 1971 Stanley Kubrick film) with 2 goals against in the first half, from Memphis Depay 10’, and Daley Blind 45+1’. The USMNT played better in the second half, with Hagi Wright scoring on the 76’.  But the Dutch sealed the game with a goal coming from Denzel Dumfries 81’.

Memphis Depay of the Netherlands celebrates after scoring the opening goal of his team during the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between the Netherlands and the United States, at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner) (Martin Meissner, AP)

There is a lot to be excited about

Regardless of the loss against the Dutch, the USMNT run demonstrates the rapid development soccer is having in the nation. After winning the CONCACAF Nations League in 2020 and the Gold Cup in 2021 against Mexico, there was a lot of illusion following this team, as well as a lot of pressure. They demonstrated that this young squad has yet to hit its ceiling, and with exciting young players like Yunus Musah, captain Tyler Adams, and Brendan Aaronson to name some, in the 2026 World Cup, which will be held in the US with Houston being a host city, the USMNT could become serious contenders.