By Rachel O'Dwyer
Now that the Qatar World Cup 2022 is over, it’s time to take a look at this year’s US team’s performance. With a talented squad and a history of solid performances on the world stage, the U.S.A. team was expected to have some exciting moments in Qatar.
The USMNT might not have made it to the World Cup Final; however, one cannot argue that the team didn’t meet certain expectations. After all, they managed to escape a difficult group and qualify for the Round of 16.
Of course, the team did not manage to get beyond that; however, after missing out on Russia back in 2018 during an embarrassing qualification period, it was a step forward for the team. With the next edition of the FIFA World Cup set to be held across the US, Canada, and Mexico, there is some renewed hope for the team to get even farther after this year’s improved performance.
Let’s go over some of the US Team’s top moments from this year:
The U.S. men's national team opened their 11th World Cup tournament with a 1-1 draw against Wales in Al Rayyan, Qatar. Tim Weah's first-half goal put the USMNT ahead before Gareth Bale converted a penalty late in the game.
The USMNT may have felt that they had deserved more on the night and fans in Qatar and back home will have probably been disappointed that they were unable to get the victory, as Gregg Berhalter’s side had managed to put in a very strong opening performance in the first game.
Next up was England; one of the pre-tournament favorites before they came undone by France; another of the favorites with the defending champions also being one of the teams in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Final.
The USMNT put in another solid performance as they managed to hold on to a 0-0 draw against the Three Lions, thus giving them two points from two games and knowing a win was needed against Iran if they were to progress. Naturally, there was plenty at stake on this game, although the biggest test was perhaps the game against the Middle Eastern nation, due to what was ultimately riding on it.
The United States defeated Iran 1-0 in Doha, Qatar, to move to the World Cup round of 16. As mentioned, it was a match that everyone from Ohio and across the US and fans around the world knew had to end in a victory if they were to qualify. Indeed, they managed to do this after Chelsea star and Captain America Christian Pulisic scored the only goal of the game, where he got injured in the process.
That goal was enough to give them qualification to the next round, as they finished runners-up in Group B.
The United States men’s national soccer team has come a long way since they were last in the World Cup finals, and they made it to the round of 16 with some impressive play.
Here are the final standings for the USMNT in the Qatar Football World Cup group:
By finishing second in Group B, the USA was able to progress to the Round of 16, where they would end up facing the winners of Group A: The Netherlands.
A talented Netherlands defeated the U.S. team 3-1 in the Round of 16, thus concluding the U.S. campaign at the 2022 World Cup. Despite a good fight, they could not hold off the Dutch in front of a great crowd in Doha.
With draws against Wales and England and their win over Iran in group play, the Americans have never trailed in this tournament. However, none mattered in the knockout stage, where teams had to win or advance.
Things did not start in the best way for the USMNT, as they found themselves behind inside the first 10 minutes after Memphis Depay volleyed the ball home past Matt Turner. The Dutch then got their second just before the half-time interval, which really killed the US and their chances of progressing further.
Haji Wright gave them a lift and a glimmer of hope in clawing something back when he netted in the 76th minute, but that only made the Oranje react, as they extended their two-goal lead via Denzel Dumfries in the 81st minute, thus compounding the team to a 3-1 defeat.
Overall, this year’s performance by the US’ team was a positive one, and one that shows promise for the next World Cup. Even though soccer is not as big in the US as American Football, it is becoming more popular amongst Americans. One key tell is the number of sports betting activity that was projected for the World Cup this year in the US. In fact, the American Gambling Association had stated in a press release that this year, “20.5 million American adults (8%) plan to bet a total of $1.8 billion on the 2022 FIFA World Cup™”
Of course, apart from the Tournament growing in popularity amongst American bettors, the Supreme Court’s decision to end the federal ban on sports betting in 2018 played a great role as more and more states continued to legalize the activity ever since. This year alone, there have been over seven States that legalized online and mobile wagering, with the latest one being Maryland which launched last month. Next year, on exactly New Years’ Day, Ohio will also be launching sports betting officially, with big brands like BetMGM Ohio, DraftKings Ohio, and Caesars Ohio being some of the top sportsbooks to begin operating in the State.
More States will undoubtedly follow, and there are already some talks about Massachusetts being next, and potential for Iowa and Missouri to follow suit. What is certain is that, the more States open their doors to online wagering, the number of US bettors will continue to grow. According to an article by CNBC, an estimated 132 million Americans now live in states where sports betting is legal, over 13 times more than during the last World Cup, where the number was just 10 million. With 15 more States to go to legalize sports betting, the potential for growth is massive.
This year's Qatar World Cup was thrilling, with several top moments for the United States Men's National Team. The USMNT performed admirably and showed why they are considered an outstanding team. It could be argued that the U.S. team exceeded expectations in the Group Stage, although given the strength of the Group, many might also argue that they did what was expected, especially as they had a young squad at this year’s Finals. It was exciting to see them succeed, and it was a pity that one bad outing in the Round of 16 caused them to exit early and face elimination. But the team showed great promise, and when the next World Cup comes around, this team will be one to watch. (GP/SJ)