The US Men’s National Team is on the brink of qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, and all that stands in their way is 90 minutes of soccer. They’ll face off against Costa Rica tonight in their final match of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, where all they need is a win, a draw, or a loss by less than six goals to lock up at least third place, and an automatic berth into the final tournament.
It will be the first time the USA will make an appearance at the World Cup since 2014, as they missed out on qualifying for the 2018 tournament. The last WCQ cycle ended up in utter heartbreak for the Americans, as a 2-1 loss to Trinidad & Tobago coupled with a last-minute controversial win for Panama over Costa Rica would see the USMNT fall to fifth place and out of the qualifying spots on the final day of qualifying play.
Looking back to 2014, the United States cruised through qualification spearheaded by Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore, losing only two games but finishing at the top of the hexagonal table with 22 points. Costa Rica and Honduras finished in second and third, while Mexico finished at fourth but ultimately qualified for the tournament after defeating New Zealand in the inter-continental playoff. USA was drawn into a group alongside Germany, Portugal, and Ghana for the World Cup group stage, and immediately was written off by much of the world, assuming Germany and Portugal would go through.
The USMNT had other ideas, though, as they took down Ghana 2-1 in their first game, and ground out a 2-2 draw against Portugal in their second contest. They almost pulled off another 2-1 win in that match, but Silvestre Varela found an equalizer in the fifth minute of stoppage time, earning a huge point for Portugal in the dying seconds. They followed up that match with a 1-0 loss to Germany as Portugal logged their first win of the tournament over Ghana. Both USA and Portugal finished with four points, but since the Americans didn’t give up too many goals against the Germans, they advanced to the knockout rounds thanks to the goal differential tiebreaker. Portugal and Ghana were sent packing.
Jurgen Klinsmann’s side drew Belgium in the Round of 16, and held them to a 0-0 score through 90 minutes. Unfortunately, superstars Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku both found the back of the net for the Belgians in extra time. Even though Julian Green pulled one back for the Americans in the 107th minute, they were unable to find an equalizer and Belgium advanced to the quarterfinals, sending the USMNT home.
The United States is on track to get another crack at it after eight long years as they look for World Cup glory once again.