If you were hoping to watch the United States play in the 2018 World Cup, you are going to have to wait another four years. Why is the USA not in the World Cup? The practical answer is the final hour of qualifying became a worse case scenario in every possible way for the United States. How the United States put themselves in this position is more complicated.
On October 10, 2017, the USA headed into the final day of World Cup qualifying needing a win or a draw over Trinidad and Tobago to punch their ticket. The New York Times broke down the experience minute-by-minute, as the failure also involved the results of other games. Here are the key moments from the final night that caused the United States not to qualify for Russia.
At the 17′, the United States scored an own goal to go down 1-0 then at the 37′ Trinidad scores an actual goal to go up 2-0. Honduras later took the lead over Mexico, and now the United States final hope was for Panama not to score. At the 88′, Panama would score the game-winning goal to upset Costa Rica 2-1. Honduras defeated 3-2, and the results of these matches combined with the United States’ shocking loss kept the USA out of the World Cup. Heading into the night, the United States were heavy favorites both in their match, and to qualify for the World Cup. USA’s Michael Bradley summed up the night as well as possible.
“It was a perfect storm kind of a night, where everything that could have possibly went wrong did, in this stadium and two others,” Bradley told the United States.
The result was months in the making after the United States failed to close out qualifying in the final matches. In September 2017, there was a 1-1 draw to Honduras as well as a 0-2 loss to Costa Rica that contributed to the USA heading into the final night still needing to qualify. The United States also play in CONCACAF, which is not considered one of the more challenging groups around the world. Now the USA will have to wait until the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and the qualifying matches leading up to the tournament. The United States did receive a bit of good news prior to the start of the 2018 World Cup as the USA’s combined bid with Mexico and Canada was selected to host the 2026 World Cup.
Back to the current tragedy, the United States brought in former German striker Jurgen Klinsmann to help take the USMNT to the next level. After a solid showing in the 2014 World Cup where the United States advanced out of a challenging group, the team sputtered over the next few years in CONCACAF play and tournaments. The feeling was a change needed to be made, and Klinsmann was fired in November 2017. The United States brought in former USMNT coach Bruce Arena which was a bit of a puzzling hire. After going outside the United States to hire Klinsmann, the USA turned to the coach who managed the team in both the 2002 and 2006 World Cups.
A lengthy piece by The Ringer’s Andrew Helms and Matt Pentz detailed the general feeling around the program that team chemistry was at an all-time low after Klinsmann, and the United States failed to react in time.
Behind the scenes, though, the disaster that unfolded in Trinidad was not the result of one shot hitting off the post or one poor tactical decision. The failure to qualify for the World Cup was the direct result of seven years of mismanagement at the highest levels of U.S. Soccer, which fostered disunion among the team’s players and ultimately doomed them to defeat…
Taken together, their accounts reveal that the seeds of the World Cup failure had been planted years earlier, in 2011, when U.S. Soccer president and Columbia University economist Sunil Gulati landed Klinsmann, a former World Cup–winning player with an elite international reputation, to become the new coach of the U.S. team. Yet Klinsmann’s methods — laudable in theory — decimated the team’s culture. Despite hearing about these problems from some men’s national team players and from U.S. Soccer staff members, Gulati and the federation’s leadership failed to react in time.
The United States failed to qualify for the World Cup, because of a loss to Trinidad and Tobago. The full answer is more complicated than that.