The United States qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar

Updated: Mar 31

After failing to qualify in 2018, the Americans have finished third in their qualifying group and will learn about their group stage opponents on Friday.

By Benjamin Royer, Sports Editor

After a seven-month campaign to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the United States finished in third place and have cemented their spot in world soccer's largest competition. (Graphic by Matthew Royer)

For the first time since 2014, Americans will be returning to soccer’s largest men’s international competition, the FIFA World Cup.

Wednesday night wrapped a 14-game long World Cup qualifying window which tested the composure and mental strength of the CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football) squads. The United States finished its campaign to cement a spot in Qatar despite falling to Costa Rica by a score of 2-0. The Americans advanced on goal difference and had a subdued celebration in their foes’ capital city of San José – purely ceremonious compared to the theatrics of their 5-1 victory over Panama in Orlando, Florida just three days earlier – in which the USMNT rallied together across Exploria Stadium holding a sign that said “qualified” on it.

The long wait is now over. Fans can book their flights alongside the team to travel to Qatar for the 22nd World Cup, taking place from Nov. 21 through Dec. 18. Usually planned for the summer, FIFA opted to host the event during the winter to counteract harsh conditions that hit Qatar in the summer – daily temperatures that average 106 F.

“I am extremely proud of this group,” said Chelsea FC midfielder Christian Pulisic postgame on Paramount+. “It’s a bit of a weird feeling right now cause I hate to lose so much, but I am really proud and I cannot wait to go to the World Cup.”

Spearheaded by the leadership of Pulisic, the Americans could be a candidate to create waves against the football world’s biggest stars and teams. Juventus FC midfielder Weston McKinnie was unable to compete in recent matches due to a broken foot, but should be healthy enough to go in November.

Borussia Dortmund forward Giovanni Reyna and Red Bull Leipzig midfielder Tyler Adams also figure to play larger roles as mainstays of the starting lineup.

Coaching had been an issue for the national team and led to argument-filled debates after former coaches Jürgen Klinsmann and Bruce Arena failed to lead the United States to the 2018 World Cup. The United States Soccer Federation has found its coach and has stuck with his guidance through World Cup qualification.

At the helm of the USMNT is Gregg Berhalter, who coached Major League Soccer club Columbus Crew for six years before signing to lead the national team.

Under the 48-year-old’s almost four-year reign, the retention of dual-national players – athletes who hold two or more nationalities – has been a major focus, in addition to his selection of youth-filled squads that have allowed more inexperienced players to take the spotlight. Some fans have gripes over his tactical choices, but while in charge of the national team, Berhalter has a 34-7-9 record and led the United States to a CONCACAF Gold Cup title win over Mexico.

“I don’t think that has sunk in yet,” said Berhalter postgame on Paramount+ about qualifying for the World Cup after representing the United States as a player in 2002 and 2006. “Just being at the World Cup as a player is just one of the most special things you can do. You think about the world stage and the games – the impact the games have, and how the nation is behind you. It is really a beautiful thing. Now to be doing it as a coach with this group of players is something special.”

The Americans finished third in the standings, good enough to sit in one of three automatic qualifying positions alongside Canada and Mexico. Fourth-place Costa Rica will have to face off against New Zealand, the Oceania final victors, for one of the remaining spots in the 2022 World Cup.

This year provides an opportunity for the United States to prosper on the national level after missing out four years ago and falling to Belgium in the Round of 16 in 2014, possibly setting the stage for their first finals run in the tournament’s history.

On Friday at 9:00 a.m., the USMNT will find out the group they will face off against in the long-awaited opening draw.

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