The Americans arrived in Uruguay for the first FIFA World Cup™ in 1930 with a squad of largely foreign-born players and, although little was expected of them, they managed to shock the competition and finish third. Many of the same players then lined up four years later in Italy with considerably poorer results. The next World Cup the US reached was in 1950 in Brazil, but then came a time of stagnancy and it was 40 years before a wonder-strike from Paul Caligiuri in Port of Spain, Trinidad saw them make a return to the world’s biggest stage. They proceeded to qualify for every finals since then, matching Mexico as masters of the CONCACAF zone. Last time out, the Americans finished top of their six-team 'hexagonal' group to reach South Africa 2010.
FIFA World Cup finals history
The first US team to turn up at a FIFA world finals earned the dubious nickname of the ‘shot-putters’ for their muscular and burly nature, but 3-0 wins over Paraguay and Belgium in 1930 was enough for a third-place finish, to this day the best placing for any team outside of Europe or South America. Four years later the Americans went out in the first round, but they caused a grand sensation in Brazil in 1950 when, led by outstanding goalkeeper Frank Borghi, they managed to beat mighty England in Belo Horizante in an upsets for the ages. Another first-round exit came in 1990, but as hosts in 1994 they managed to reach the knockout rounds, a result that paved the way to more consistency. And after a last-place finish at France 1998, they beat Portugal and Mexico in Korea/Japan 2002 and only just missed out on a semi-final place after losing to Germany. In 2006 they went out in the first round again, this time in Germany before reaching the Round of 16 in South Africa in 2010.
The current crop
Coach Bob Bradley has assembled a sturdy though not particularly adventurous squad. Usually lining up in a 4-4-2 formation, with two holding midfielders, the Americans are a difficult side to break down, and dangerous on the break. They used the counter-attack to stunning effect in South Africa in 2009 when they beat Spain to reach the Final of the FIFA Confederations Cup. They repeated that final run at the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup despite suffering a humiliating defeat to Panama in the first round. In the end, they were humbled for the second straight time in the grand finale of the regional showpiece, surrendering a 2-0 lead to lose out 4-2 to Mexico on home soil.
In recent years, the name Landon Donovan has been synonymous with the US national team. The Los Angeles Galaxy attacker has often saved his very best performances for a USA shirt, and there is little doubt that Donovan will once again be one of his team's leading men as they set their sights on Brazil 2014. Providing an impressive supporting cast are the likes of Oguchi Onyewu, Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey, all of whom are plying their trade on European soil.
Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann
Best performances in a FIFA Competition: FIFA World Cup Uruguay 1930 (Third place), FIFA Confederations Cup Saudi Arabia 1992, Mexico 1999 (Third place), FIFA U-20 World Cup Saudi Arabia 1989 (Fourth place), FIFA U-17 World Cup New Zealand 1999 (Fourth place)
Former stars: John Harkes, Claudio Reyna, Brian McBride