But what about those last nine World Cups? How far did the U.S. go in them?
1930: The U.S. made the semifinals of the very first World Cup, winning both of their group stage matches before Argentina thumped them, 6-1, in the knockout stages.
1934: One match, one loss and the U.S. was done in Italy. They were beaten 7-1, making them dead last in the 16-team field.
1938: The U.S. withdrew from the 1938 World Cup, making it the first one the Americans missed.
1950: The first World Cup since World War II provided one of the tournament's biggest ever upsets as the U.S. beat England thanks to Joe Gaetjens' goal that stunned one of the favorites. That would be the only match the U.S. would win in Brazil and the Americans went out in the group stage.
1954-1986: The U.S. were terrible, failing to qualify for another World Cup until 1990. It wasn't even that they couldn't qualify for the world's biggest sporting event -- they rarely come close.
2014 in the Books
2014 in the Books
1990: Paul Caliguiri's incredible goal against Trinidad and Tobago earned the U.S. a spot back in the World Cup, but they were clearly outclassed back on the big stage. They lost all three matches and were outscored 8-2 as a team of mainly college players couldn't hack it against the world's best.
1994: The U.S. automatically qualified for the 1994 World Cup as hosts and they rode that home-field advantage to a draw over Switzerland in their opener, then a win over Colombia in their next match. That was enough to earn them a spot in the knockout stages for the first time since 1930, but Brazil were too much for them in the round of 16 and the U.S. went out.
1998: The feeling was that the U.S. was trending up, but that all came crashing down in France. In-fighting, bizarre tactics and horrific play landed the U.S. dead last in the field of 32. They lost all three matches and were outscored 5-1 in an embarrassing performance that looked to destroy any positive momentum the program had.
2002: A new generation of U.S. players, led by Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley, had begun to develop with the help of MLS and the U.S. Residency Program in Bradenton, FL. They, combined with some veterans from Europe, were ready to bring on the new era of American soccer and they did just that in South Korea.
First, they beat Portugal, 3-2, in the tournament opener. Portugal, led by Luis Figo, were a darkhorse to win the whole tournament, and then the Americans drew hosts South Korea. Those four points were enough to get them to the round of 16, where they beat rivals Mexico, 2-0, for a spot in the quarterfinals and eternal bragging rights. Their run came to an end in the quarters, where they lost to Germany 1-0, but even the German manager admitted his team was outplayed by the Americans and the U.S. had their best World Cup performance of the modern era.
2006: Buoyed by the quarterfinals appearance in 2002, expectations were high for 2006, but they were drawn into a brutal group. The Czech Republic thrashed them in the opener and while they did manage a draw against Italy, a loss to Ghana in the finale sent them out of the tournament.
The U.S. ended up being the only team Italy didn't beat en route to winning the World Cup, but that didn't take the sting out of a disappointing tournament that began with huge expectations.
2010: This time, the draw did the U.S. a favor. They had an almost ideal group, and it showed when they were able to draw seeded England, 1-1, to open the tournament. It looked like it was going to be for naut when they fell behind 2-0 to Slovenia, but the Americans came back for a draw. All they needed was a win in their final match against the group's weakest team, Algeria, and they would be through. It may have taken until the waning minutes, but that's exactly what they got when Donovan found the back of the net and ignited mass celebrations throughout the States.
The U.S. run would end in the round of 16 as Ghana eliminated the Americans for a second straight World Cup, but they had won their group for the first time since 1930 and the arrow was pointing up again.