January 10, 1984 might not seem like an auspicious day in history, though it does mark the very first time Clara Peller asked America, “Where’s the Beef?,” but it was on this very eve 30 years ago that Eurosport, the Fabled Soccer Traders, was officially founded.
Created as the brainchild of a high school soccer player looking for gear all those years ago, Eurosport has grown into SOCCER.COM today. Throughout these 30 years of the game, US Soccer has seen some significant changes. As SOCCER.COM celebrates our 30th birthday, we’re looking back at soccer in the USA and just how far it’s come.
1984: The American Indoor Soccer Association and the United Soccer League form. For the first time in history, more colleges across the country play soccer, 532, than football, 505.
Soccer matches at the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles see 75,000 or more fans attend at least five matches (France wins gold). These figures help the US eventually get the bid to host the 1994 FIFA World Cup™
1985: Needing just a draw against Costa Rica to reach the 1986 FIFA World Cup™, the US scheduled the game in Torrance, Calif., home to Costa Rican expats and advertised the game mainly in Spanish, promising Costa Rican folk dances at halftime. The US loses 1-0.
1988: Paul Caliguiri hits a 35-yard stunner to beat Trinidad and Tobago and see the USMNT qualify for the FIFA World Cup™ finals for the first time since 1950. The strike has later been called, “the shot heard around the world.” That same year, the US is awarded the 1994 FIFA World Cup™, five years after their bid to host the 1986 event failed and the contest was the tournament played in Mexico.
The US Futsal Team also wins a bronze medal at the inaugural FIFA World Champion in Holland
1990: The US competes in their first World Cup™ in 40 years, but fails to win any of three group games against hosts Italy, Czechoslovakia and Austria. After losing to the Czech’s 5-1 in the opening contest, the USMNT falls 1-0 to Italy and 2-1 to the Austrians. Mike Windischamm captains the team, which also featured future stars Eric Wynalda, Marcelo Balboa, Tab Ramos, John Harkes, Kasey Keller and Tony Meola.
1991: The U.S. Women’s National Team wins the first-ever FIFA Women’s World Cup™, beating Norway 2-1 in the final. The team featured Mia Hamm and Linda Hamilton (both former Eurosport/SOCCER.COM call center employees), Michelle Akers, Julie Foudy, Kristine Lillly, Carla Overbeck and Brandi Chastain. The team was absolutely dominant in qualifying, outscoring CONCACAF foes 49-0.
The U.S. Men’s National team also wins their first regional championship with a 4-3 penalty kick victory against Honduras in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
1992: The inaugural U.S. Cup is held with the USMNT beating Ireland and Portugal and tying Italy. The US claims the silver medal in the second ever FIFA Indoor Five-a-Side World Championship in Hong Kong.
1993: The U.S. Cup serves as a dress-rehearsal for the 1994 World Cup™. The USMNT beats England 2-0, in a historic triumph. Some 286,000 people in total attend the six matches of the tournament and ABC broadcasts the US-Germany match.
The U.S. U-20s beat European No. 1 Turkey 6-0 in a result that shocks the entire soccer world.
1994: The United States hosts the FIFA World Cup™. More than 3.5 million attend, shattering the record from 1990 by more than 1 million. The average 68,991 match attendance is still a record today. The USMNT advances to the knockout round for the first time since 1950, losing 1-0 to champions Brazil.
1995: USMNT reaches the semifinals of the Copa America with their first ever victory against Argentina and a penalty kick victory against Mexico. Again, they lose 1-0 to Brazil.
1996: Major League Soccer begins with 10 teams, the first full-fledged professional league in the US since the NASL disbanded in 1984. FIFA selects the US as hosts of the 1999 Women’s World Cup. The USWNT wins the gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics, the first ever.
1999: Brandi Chastain scores the winning penalty kick of the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ final against China, disrobes in joy. The 90,000 attendance figure at the final at the Rose Bowl still remains the highest ever for a women’s sporting event.
2001: Former call center employee Mia Hamm is named the first ever FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year ahead of compatriot Tiffeny Milbrett.
2002: The USMNT reaches the quarterfinals of their FIFA World Cup™, the best finish since 1930. They beat Portugal in the Group Stage and a draw with hosts South Korea. They beat Mexico 2-0 in the Round of 16 before losing 1-0 to Germany. Claudio Reyna is named to the all-tournament team. Landon Donovan is the Best Young Player of the tournament. The USMNT also wins the CONCACAF Gold Cup for the first time since 1991, defeating Costa Rica in the final.
2005: The US tops CONCACAF World Cup qualifying for the first time in 71 years on the heels of a 2-0 defeat of Mexico in Columbus, Ohio. The team goes on to win the Gold Cup again.
2006: The USMNT earns a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Italy with just nine men at the FIFA World Cup™, but crashes out of the group stage.
2007: International superstar David Beckham signs for the LA Galaxy
2008: USWNT wins their third Olympic gold medal in China.
2010: Landon Donovan scores a stoppage time winner against Algeria to help the USMNT advance to the knockout round of the FIFA World Cup South Africa, where they lose to Ghana in extra time.
2011: Abby Wambach hits home a heroic header in stoppage time (the latest ever in a WC match) to help the USWNT defeat Brazil and ultimately reach the finals of the Women’s World up, where they lose on penalties to Japan.
2012: The United States celebrates 100 years in competitive soccer. Under Jurgen Klinsmann, the USMNT has historic friendly 1-0 victories in Italy versus the Azzurri and against Mexico at the Estadio Azteca.
2013: US Men’s National Team qualifies for the 2014 FIFA World Cup™, sealing their spot with another historic 2-0 win against Mexico in Columbus, Ohio. USMNT also goes undefeated in group stage and wins the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
During 2014 qualifying when the US faced Panama at Century Link Field in Seattle, over 41,000 fans attended. A far cry from 1984.
What do you think the next 30 years of soccer in America will look like?