Skip to content

Big question: Is this United States squad the best in history?

Sep 11, 2013, 2:44 PM EDT

Mexico v United States - FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier Getty Images

During the Gold Cup success early this summer, plenty of people were throwing around statements about this being ‘the biggest talent pool the U.S. has ever had’ and that this was the ‘strongest squad in USMNT history.’

Well… have they got a point? After the ease in which the U.S. qualified for the World Cup from the CONCACAF region this campaign (more on that from Mr. Davis coming up soon), it’s certainly worth considering.

Along the way there was an injury crisis or two, loss of form and plenty of new faces used as Jurgen Klinsmann revamped his entire squad to make sure they got to Brazil.

(MORE: Strongest U.S. national team in history? Check out these three starting XI’s)

But is picking the 23-man roster that will represent the United States of America at the World Cup the toughest job for any U.S. manger, ever?

That question springs up at around this time every four years once the WC qualifying cycle is coming to an end but there has been growing intrigue and debate about the topic this time out. Klinsmann has built a solid squad of top players from MLS, Liga MX and across Europe that may become the best squad U.S. soccer has ever seen.

(MORE: More than a scoreline, “Dos a Cero” signifies U.S. dominance over Mexico)

Before we get started, we have to take our hats off to the three U.S. squads who qualified for three of the first four World Cups in 1930, 1934 and 1950. But we won’t be delving that far back to Joe Gaetjens and other heroes because quite frankly it’s extremely difficult to compare the game back in the early 20th century to soccer today.

source:

Eric Wynalda helped lead a hard-nosed U.S. side at Italia ’90.

Let’s take this discussion back to the World Cup in Italy in 1990, then head to the USA’s 2002 World Cup campaign which saw them knocked out by Germany in the quarterfinals and finally compare it to today’s squad.

United States national team 1990 World Cup

With the likes of Tony Meola in goal, John Harkes and Eric Wynalda up front, the U.S. had a strong core of talented players who were playing across Europe. These guys weren’t necessarily playing on the biggest teams but they had experience that helped the USA qualify for their first World Cup since 1950. Paul Caligiuri’s ‘shot heard round the world’ made that possible and his play was a hallmark of how the U.S. set up. A tough defensive team with the likes of Marcelo Balboa, Tab Ramos and Peter Vermes, the USA were hard to beat in qualifying. But when they got to Italia ’90 everything went pear-shaped. A 1-0 defeat to hosts Italy wasn’t disastrous but a 5-1 loss to Czechoslovakia and a 2-1 reverse to Austria ensured the U.S. left Italy with zero points, two goals scored and their tails between their legs. An experienced squad full of fight and determination, I think today’s U.S. squad are head and shoulders above the revolutionary 1990 squad.

United States national team 2002 World Cup

source:

Clint Mathis was part of the exciting United States side that made the 2002 quarterfinals.

This side would take some beating, even by today’s standards. With a young Landon Donovan causing all kinds of problems for opposition defenses and with John O’Brien and Claudio Reyna breaking things up in midfield the U.S. had a solid defensive core to build from. Brad Friedel in goal was phenomenal and with a winger like DaMarcus Beasley whipping in crosses for Brian McBride, if I shut my eyes I can still recall that scintillating first-half display against Portugal in Suwon. Bruce Arena had a heck of a squad and just keeping everyone happy was tough. At the back veterans like Eddie Pope and Jeff Agoos kept everything together and it was a joy to watch them allow Donovan, Beasley and other youngsters dash forward and create havoc. Much like Klinsmann today, Arena had at least two players for every position and the 2002 World Cup side would push the current U.S. team all the way in terms of being the best squad in U.S. soccer history.

United States national team 2013 World Cup qualifying

source: Reuters

Jurgen Klinsmann has the likes of Altidore, Dempsey, Donovan and Bradley to choose from.

Ah, so here we go. This current U.S. team can boast accolades other incarnations could only dream of. Setting a record for consecutive victories with 12 straight wins, winning a Gold Cup with a ‘reserve’ squad and being able to boast players who are playing in some of Europe’s best leagues week in, week out. Without doubt Klinsmann has an incredibly hard job to whittle this squad down to just 23 for the World Cup next summer. The likes of Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley and Tim Howard can already pack their floral swim shorts and flip-flops, they’re on the plane to Rio. But with so much strength in depth this has to be the strongest ever pool of players. The sheer numbers of players playing regularly in the top European leagues (Cameron, Johnson, Jones, Guzan, Bradley, Howard, Altidore, Shea, Diskerud, Bedoya etc.) is phenomenal and all of Major League Soccer’s star U.S. players are now being given a chance and are impressing. The fact that someone of Donovan’s class was being kept out of the team for most of 2013 is a good indication as to how good this team is. At any other time period in U.S. soccer history leaving Donovan out of a squad would be akin to Argentina sitting Lionel Messi on the bench. It just wouldn’t happen. Talent in abundance.

Verdict

Anyway after all that, my mind is made up. The 2013 USMNT squad is the best group of players the United States has ever produced that are all playing together at the same time. Enjoy watching it folks, this is historic. But one more positive to finish on. This team is full of players just establishing themselves at international level and by the time the 2018 World Cup in Russia arrives, this squad could be even better. Have a think about it. Mind-boggling.

Latest Posts
  1. MLS Weekend Preview: Derbies close weekend kicking off off at Sporting Park

    Aug 29, 2014, 12:42 AM EDT

    Sporting Kansas City v Montreal Impact Getty Images

    NBCSN games on Friday, Sunday highlight a nine-match weekend in the domestic league.

  2. Leicester City lands coup with Inter legend Esteban Cambiasso

    Aug 28, 2014, 10:10 PM EDT

    esteban_cambiasso Getty Images

    The Nerazzurri icon moves to the East Midlands after 10 years at the San Siro.

  3. Crimes and Misdemeanors: Portland’s Norberto Paparatto receives one-game suspension from MLS

    Aug 28, 2014, 9:04 PM EDT

    norberto_paparatto AP

    An arm to the back of Chad Marshall’s head earns the Timber’s center back a weekend off.

  4. Kei Kamara returning the MLS? Regardless, his time’s done at Middlesbrough

    Aug 28, 2014, 8:20 PM EDT

    Kamara head shot

    Columbus, Sporting, Vancouver connected with a possible return.

  5. Lessons from 2010 say U.S. squad as much about opportunity, circumstances as youth

    Aug 28, 2014, 7:01 PM EDT

    jurgen_klinsmann

    In 2010, a series of young Americans looked prime for breakthroughs. Their experience reminds up: Four years is a long way off.

  6. Premier League Power Rankings: Familiar faces jostle for the top spot – Week 1

    Aug 28, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT

    Nacer Chadli AP

    Our first Power Rankings of the 2014-15 season. What do you think?

  7. U.S. roster for Czech Republic: Quick look at some of the newer names

    Aug 28, 2014, 5:13 PM EDT

    Rubin Rubin

    Rubio Rubin, Joe Gyau, and Emerson Hyndman are among the roster’s most-intriguing prospects for 2018.

  8. VIDEO: PST Extra – Did Manchester United waste $99 million on Angel Di Maria?

    Aug 28, 2014, 4:10 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Manchester United Angel Di Maria AP

    Jenna, JPW and Prindi break down Di Maria to United, Balotelli to Liverpool and Chelsea’s tough trip to Everton.

  9. Who is Jordan Morris? College player gets US national team call up for friendly

    Aug 28, 2014, 3:44 PM EDT

    Source: Pac -12 Source: Pac -12

    A striker from Stanford could become the first collegian in the MLS era to play for the USA. Who is he?

  10. Report: Chelsea, Arsenal, Real Madrid battling to sign Radamel Falcao on loan

    Aug 28, 2014, 3:10 PM EDT

    Radamel Falcao AP

    Four top teams in the hunt for Falcao. Will they cough up the cash for a loan deal?

  11. Plenty of surprises in US national team roster for Czech Republic friendly

    Aug 28, 2014, 2:48 PM EDT

    USA Training & Press Conference - 2014 FIFA World Cup Getty Images

    Klinsmann selects Stanford forward, several American youngsters based in Europe for Czech Republic clash.

  12. Analysis: Arsenal, Manchester City handed tough Champions League draw

    Aug 28, 2014, 1:40 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-BORUSSIA-DORTMUND-ARSENAL Getty Images

    Can Arsenal and Man City navigate tough UCL groups, again?

  13. Cristiano Ronaldo wins UEFA’s ‘best player in Europe’ award

    Aug 28, 2014, 1:13 PM EDT

    Portugal Soccer Champions League Final AP

    Ronaldo named ‘best player in Europe’ for outstanding 2013-14 season.

  14. Full draw: European giants collide as UEFA Champions League groups set

    Aug 28, 2014, 12:44 PM EDT

    UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League - Q1 and Q2 Qualifying Round Draw Getty Images

    The eight groups are set as the 2014-15 UEFA Champions League will kick off next month.

  15. Angel Di Maria unveiled by Manchester United, van Gaal doesn’t expect ‘miracles’

    Aug 28, 2014, 11:49 AM EDT

    Bv-8S8vCcAAWAVe

    Louis van Gaal delighted, yet realistic, as Di Maria speaks for the first time as a United player.

  16. VIDEO: Donovan shines, LA Galaxy hammer DC United 4-1

    Aug 28, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT

    landon_donovan Getty Images

    Galaxy win third-straight, go second in the West as Donovan continues to shine during elongated swansong.

  17. Transfer needs – Manchester United, Newcastle, QPR, Southampton, Stoke

    Aug 28, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    MK Dons v Manchester United - Capital One Cup Second Round Getty Images

    We continue our look at what each PL team needs to do in the final few days of the window.

  18. Preview: Possible “Groups of Death” galore in UEFA Champions League draw

    Aug 28, 2014, 8:20 AM EDT

    Champions League logo

    All the details you need to know, as the UCL group stage draw takes place on Thursday.

Featured video

Breaking down Di Maria, Balotelli deals