Look, America’s not a soccer country – not yet. Many curious onlookers and casual fans complained vehemently about the Yanks’ 0-0 tie against England’s Three Lions the day after Thanksgiving, days after a 1-1 draw against little Wales in their first group-stage match.
But consider: the United States never has won the World Cup; never been to the semifinals. We didn’t even qualify for the world’s grandest of all competitions four years ago. American Exceptionalism may be a thing in some pursuits, but our men’s soccer teams still are pursuing soccer glory.
The Red, White and Blue are fielding the second-youngest roster among teams competing in Qatar. And, while many fans consider this group of players America’s “Golden Generation” – it is true that more young Yanks are succeeding at the highest levels of the sport than ever before – they still are very, very young.
Inexperience likely cost the US a win against Wales.
The Americans led 1-0 with less than 10 minutes and stoppage time to play until center back Walker Zimmerman committed a reckless foul on an unnecessary challenge. Wales’ international superstar, Gareth Bale, buried the penalty kick in the 82nd minute and a match dominated by the US ended in a draw that felt like a missed opportunity.
While soccer seems perpetually crying for attention in the crowded American sports market, England is the ancestral home of association football.
The Three Lions never have dominated the world’s game England claims to have created, winning just a single World Cup (in 1966), but this may be England’s best side since the Beatles conquered the world. England is a legitimate contender – something the US never has been in this competition – and will disappoint a nation if it fails to make the semifinals.
The realistic goal for the United States always has been to make it out of the group stages, something it has (hopefully) or hasn’t done by this edition of the Press Gazette hits the racks. Thirty-two teams qualified for the World Cup. A random draw splits the squads into eight groups of four. Each team plays each other team in its group, and the top two teams from each group advance to a 16-team knockout bracket.
With that in mind, please understand no sober fan of the game expected the United States to defeat England, and very few expected we might hold them to a draw. If they’re honest, most US fans probably expected to lose by multiple goals, hopefully not more than two.
So, to see our young side stand toe-to-toe with one of the world’s finest sides was thrilling for the true fans. Every England attack turned back WAS a score, every shot blocked, pass deflected or stolen, corner forced, header won…casual fans may not understand because none of these tiny victories change the scoreboard. But the sides’ body language after the England match was clear; we may only have earned a point in the group standings, but we won that match.
If Iran beat us Tuesday (tomorrow for this writer) and America’s World Cup dream dashed again, keep your heads up. This is a good squad. It will compete again in 2026, when the World Cup comes to North America. Our “Golden Generation” will be more polished, more experienced and better for these ties in Qatar.
And, if the U.S. is still in the fray, join us in wishing them well and, if you’re not a soccer fan, keep an open mind. Goals are dear in soccer, don’t expect one every few minutes. Study the struggle, the strategy, the emotion, the character of the sides…and don’t worry – if we’re playing in the knockout rounds, there will be no more ties.