The ending may not have been what American fans were looking for, but the ride the United States took them on didn't leave much more room for pure excitement. It was perhaps fitting that it culminated with a such a roller-coaster match, with the United States nearly winning in regulation despite being horribly outplayed; falling behind by two in overtime and looking absolutely finished; before finally pulling one back and playing the final 13 minutes on the front foot and looking all the world like they'd grab the equalizer.
While it may be time to disembark this particular ride, now seems like a good time to remind all the recent converts that there's still plenty more to look forward to in time between now and when the United States hopefully takes the field for Russia 2018.
Club soccer (right now)
First things first, let's keep in mind that there's no lack of soccer you can choose to watch in person as early as tomorrow. Whether it's Major League Soccer, the NASL, USL-Pro or the National Women's Soccer League, there are teams regularly drawing 10,000 fans per game or more. Some of the USMNT's top players are in MLS and virtually all of the USWNT's best players are in the NWSL.
Sure, it might lack some of the patriotism of following the Stars and Stripes, but a very good time can still be had. Give it a chance.
If you feel like the quality just isn't up to your standard, there's plenty of soccer being played at an even higher level than the World Cup available on your TV. Every EPL game is televised as well as a ton of Spain's La Liga, Italy's Serie A, Mexico's Liga MX and starting in 2015-16 Fox will have Germany's Bundesliga. And if you liked the skipping work to watch soccer aspect of the World Cup, you can catch the UEFA Champions League on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the European club season. Nary a day goes by when there's not some soccer you can watch. Just ask the SB Nation Soccer staff.
2015 U-20 World Cup (May 30-June 20)
If you're hoping to become a bonafide soccer hipster, this is the best place to start brushing up. All the stars of tomorrow will be on display as 24 nations representing all six confederations will meet up in New Zealand. It was at the last U20 World Cup that American fans first got their glimpse of DeAndre Yedlin in a USA shirt and many of today's stars got their starts at previous tournaments.
Keep an eye out for guys like Jordan Morris, Gideon Zelalem and Junior Flores.
2015 Women's World Cup (June 6-July 5)
OK, the club game just isn't for you. That's fine. The good news is that the Women's World Cup is less than a year away and it will be super easy for you to attend as it's in Canada. Games are being played throughout that wonderful nation to the north, which means you probably aren't as far away as you might think.
The United States will once again be a favorite, but maybe not as overwhelming of one as you may think. The last time the US won the Women's World Cup was way back in 1999. Among the other contenders will be Canada, Japan, Sweden, Germany, France and Brazil. And there will be a handful of other really solid teams, as the women's game gets more and more competitive each year.
2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup (July 7-26)
Fine, if it's USMNT or bust for you, there's a continental championship kicking off almost as soon as the Women's World Cup finishes. Don't expect the United States to field their best possible team, but this tournament has some added intrigue. For everyone other than the US and Mexico, this will also serve as one of the qualifiers for the 2016 Copa America Centenario. For Canada, it's their only chance to qualify for the Copa America.
On top of that, the winner of this tournament will face the United States (winner of the 2013 edition) for the right to represent CONCACAF in the 2017 Confederations Cup. If there's some real motivation for the USA, it's winning the right to avoid the playoff and go straight to the pre-World Cup tournament that features the six confederation winners, the defending World Cup winner and the host nation.
Tough Loss for U.S.
Tough Loss for U.S.
2016 Copa America Centenario (June 3-26)
Somewhere right below the World Cup in terms of excitement should be this one. For the first time in its 100-year history, the South American championship will be played off their continent with all of the games being played in the United States. The host stadiums have not yet been finalized, but expect them to be spread out all around the country.
In addition to the 10 CONMEBOL nations -- which includes the likes of Argentina, Brazil and Colombia -- there will be six teams from CONCACAF. The United States and Mexico have already been included and they'll be joined by the 2014 Caribbean Cup winner, the 2014 Copa Centroamericana winner and the two top finishers from the 2015 Gold Cup that have not yet qualified. Details are still being finalized, but the expectation is that the month-long tournament will be put onto the FIFA calendar and clear the way for some of the world's top players to be included.
This is probably the next best thing to actually hosting the World Cup and provides a perfect opportunity to warm up for the 2018 tournament.
2018 World Cup qualifying (summer of 2016-fall 2017)
Probably sometime shortly after the Copa America Centenario concludes, we'll jump right into the early stages of the 2018 qualifying. Assuming they don't change up the process, the USA will join in the third round where they'll play against some of the confederations tinier nations. If that all goes well, they'll move onto the six-team final stage called "The Hexagonal" where they'll play home-and-homes against teams like Mexico, Costa Rica and Honduras.
The only thing guaranteed is that the USA will play some games in horrendous conditions, in front of hostile crowds and the fan base will threaten open revolt at some point. Qualifying through CONCACAF is never easy, no matter what you may assume.
The bandwagon is still happy to accept new riders. May as well jump on now.