It has been 1,632 days since the USMNT lost to Trinidad and Tobago to miss out on the 2018 iteration of the World Cup. It has been 2,828 days since the USMNT played in a World Cup. After last night’s 0-2 loss against Costa Rica, the long wait for redemption is over. The pain and humiliation of losing in Couva are behind us. The USMNT is back in the World Cup, where we belong. The future is oh so bright.
The journey to qualification started back in September with a 0-0 draw against El Salvador. The next game, a 1-1 draw with Canada in Nashville, had many USMNT supporters queasy and unsettled. The third game saw this USMNT squad hit full stride for the first time, unraveling Honduras 4-1 on the road.
This cycle saw the emergence of many young studs, such as Jedi Robinson, Yunus Musah, Luca De La Torre, Miles Robinson, Ricardo Pepi, and Brendan Aaronson. There have been downs; the 1-0 loss to Panama on matchday four, the 2-0 “dominant” loss to Canada, and dropping two points against Jamaica in Kingston. There have also been many high points; “Dos a Cero” in Cincinnatti, Pepi’s brace against Jamaica at home, the come-from-behind victory over Costa Rica in Columbus, and Pulisic’s first international hattrick just the other night against Panama.
Watching this group of players grow in the spotlight has been entertaining. Failure in 2017 placed a heavy burden on the players’ shoulders, and they coped with the pressure. The average age of our W.C. qualifying squad is just 23 years old.
Eight years ago, when the States last participated in the World Cup, I was 18 years old. I was at Myrtle Beach with seven of my friends from high school, watching the first match against Ghana. My friends’ weren’t as into soccer as I am/was, but we all watched and celebrated together as we won the game 2-1.
Here we are in the present day, eight years later. I am now 26, and my life has changed immensely since then. I went to college and dropped out; I started and quit several different jobs. I fell in love and had my heartbroken. I found my way back to the beautiful game, and my future has never seemed brighter. Coincidentally, you could say the same for the USMNT.
The program has had a turbulent eight years. In that 2014 tournament, the U.S. made it to the round of 16. They played their hearts out against a loaded Belgium squad but ultimately fell short in extra time. Then there was the apparent failure in Couva back in 2017. All that heartbreak has led to greener pastures and a brighter tomorrow.
It is unlikely that the States will win this year’s World Cup, but you never know.
In 2026, the World Cup is on home soil for the first time since 1994, nearly thirty years ago. Back then, the World Cup being played here created a talent wave that spawned this group of young internationals. The same is sure to happen in 2038-2046.
So let’s enjoy the moment. Let’s appreciate what our lads just accomplished. It is easy to take this for granted, considering the level of talent that we now possess as a soccer country. But taking things for granted is what led to Couva in 2017. Let’s enjoy this success and remain optimistic for future success.
“Football is life!” -Dani Rojas