July 2, 2009

A Brief Recent History of U.S. Soccer

I've been following US Soccer at a level of aficionado (fan) since 1999. I watch nearly every friendly, CONCACAF tournament game, and every FIFA tournament game.

In the United States, soccer is largely misunderstood by a good number of the public, including sportscasters and other sporting professionals. Americans are used to winning every sport they're involved in internationally. Not medaling in an international tournament is not acceptable.

With basketball, (american) football, and baseball, America has been the primary dominant international player, not only in athlete participation but also in sport development. Soccer is completely different. While America has the money to throw at the sport, the sports stage is overcrowded. People have suggested that if Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, LaDainian Tomlinson, and (fill in the blank) played soccer growing up (Bryant and Nash did) and continued professionally, the landscape of US Soccer might look more like USA Basketball than it does.

The result? The achievements of US Soccer have been discounted, ridiculed, and discarded. I want to look at some of the US Soccer wins in the last 8 years to help put things in perspective.

Format: Score, Result -- Opponent (ranking) (match location)

2002: (US enters year ranked #24)
  • 2-1 Win -- Korea (#22) (USA)
  • 1-0 Win -- Ecuador (#38) (USA)
  • 1-0 Win -- Mexico (#9) (USA)
  • 2-1 Win -- Uruguay (#22) (USA)
  • 3-2 Win -- Portugal (#5) (World Cup - Korea)
  • 2-0 Win -- Mexico (#7) (World Cup Knockout Stage)
  • 0-1 Loss -- Germany (#11) (World Cup Quarterfinals) (Germany was ranked #5 following World Cup)
- Three wins over FIFA Top 10 teams in 2002.

2003: (US enters year ranked #10)
  • 2-0 Win -- Paraguay (#20) (USA)

2004: (US enters year ranked #11)
  • 1-1 Tie -- Denmark (#13) (USA)
  • 1-0 Win -- Poland (#25) (Poland)
  • 1-0 Win -- Mexico (#7) (USA)
2005: (US achieves highest ever FIFA ranking -- #6)
  • 3-0 Win -- Colombia (#26) (USA)

2006: (US enters year ranked #7)
  • 3-2 Win -- Japan (#15) (USA)
  • 1-0 Win -- Poland (#22) (Germany)
  • 1-1 Tie -- Italy (#13) (World Cup Group Stage -- USA played over half the game a man down, tying eventual World Cup Champions, who moved to #2 after winning the World Cup.)
2007: (US enters year ranked #32 -- due to poor World Cup performance. US ranked #19 at year's end.)
  • 3-1 Win -- Denmark (#22) (USA)
  • 2-0 Win -- Mexico (#18) (USA)
  • 3-1 Win -- Ecuador (#30) (USA)
  • 2-1 Win -- Mexico (#26) (USA -- Gold Cup Final)
2008: (US enters year ranked #20)
  • 2-0 Win -- Sweden (#22) (USA)
  • 3-0 Win -- Poland (#23) (Poland)
  • 0-1 Loss -- Spain (#4) (Spain)
  • 0-0 Tie -- Argentina (#1) (USA)
2009: (US enters year ranked #22)
  • 3-2 Win over Sweden (#31) (USA)
  • 2-0 Win over Mexico (#26) (USA)
  • 3-0 Win over Egypt (#40) (African Champion) (South Africa - FIFA Confed. Cup)
  • 2-0 Win over Spain (#1) (UEFA Champion) (South Africa - FIFA Confed. Cup)
US currently ranked #12 (FIFA July standings)

Notes:
  • Big wins over Portugal, Mexico, Egypt, and Spain prove that the USA isn't a second-rate world soccer program.
  • US team is tough to beat at home -- period.
  • The lack of big wins in some years due to regional play, where group stage teams are ranked #50 or lower.
Data credits: FIFA, USSoccer.com