The United States Men’s National Team faces Iran on Tuesday at the World Cup in one of the biggest matchups for these two squads in recent memory. If the USA wins, they advance to the knockout stage and Iran is eliminated from the competition. If Iran wins, they advance and the USA is eliminated. If the match ends in a draw, the USA is eliminated and Iran’s knockout stage fate will depend on the result of Wales-England.
The USA-Iran history goes well beyond soccer, with geopolitical machinations going back more than 80 years. The current relationship has turned into an ugly mess of late with the historic beef playing out on the world stage.
But there is still soccer to be played on Tuesday, and these two nations have history in the sport. This will mark the third time the USA and Iran have met on the pitch, and the second time in the World Cup.
The two squads first met at the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France. Iran won the group stage match 2-1. Team Melli took a 1-0 lead on a Hamid Estili goal in the 40th minute and then added insurance in the 83rd minute when Mehdi Mahdavikia found the back of the net. Brian McBride scored in the 87th minute for the USMNT, but that was it for them. This was Iran’s lone win of the World Cup while it was the only match in which the USA even scored a goal as they went 0-3 that year.
The two sides met again in a 2000 international friendly that resulted in a 2-2 draw. The match took place at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena as part of an attempt at rapprochement between the two nations. The match took place, but the friendly relations were never sufficiently built up from it.